I was reading about the Virgina Tech tragedy and was surprised and shocked at the same time. As you may know the worse shooting spree to ever take place on US soil happened yesterday.
This tragic event is horrible beyond description as 32 people were massacred. This explains why I was shocked.
Now let me explain why I was surprised. The shootings did not take place all at once and the university thought the gunman had fled the campus and/or the shooting was a result of a domestic disturbance.
I am surprised that a college with the word Tech in its name actually at one point relied on people knocking door to door to get the word out about the shooting. This according to an AP article.
The university said they did e-mail students but reports say the e-mails were two hours too late.
What blows me away is in a post 9-11 world, incidents like this can happen in what seems to be a vacuum.
Where were the cameras? Where were the emergency systems that students and professors could trigger in case of such problems?
It seems the college was not in the least bit prepared for such an incident. And to some degree who could blame them for not expecting the largest massacre on our soil. But still was there no warning system at all in place?
But still I keep thinking back to the past few years after 9-11. I thought we all learned a lot. Apparently not.
Technology exists to immediately notify tens of thousands of students of emergency situations. 10,000 messages could be sent in less than ten minutes with ease. This assumes the University had some sort of disaster preparedness program in place. Apparently they did not.
The excuse that students were in their cars and unreachable is as ridiculous as saying the dog ate my homework. SMS, predictive dialing technology and yes, even e-mail can be received and responded to while driving.
In the end, we cannot bring these poor students and teachers back to life and I don’t want to be too harsh on the school regarding this disaster.
I would like to make sure however that these students and teachers did not die in vain. I propose we dedicate a national holiday in their honor and moreover integrate this holiday into disaster preparedness awareness.
We need guidelines and regulations by which schools and enterprises handle such problems in the future. There needs to be ways to send photos of suspicious people to thousands by IP phone, cell phone and e-mail. This all needs to happen in a blink of an eye.
Obviously we need a system to educate more schools and companies about how to prepare for tragic scenarios such as these.
For a number of years TMC has been working with the ECA at our conferences and online to educate the world on disaster preparedness. The ECA’s Max Schroeder and I have even written articles on the topic in the past. When I think of disasters my mind immediately thinks of hurricanes and that is likely because weather-related calamities have been so prevalent these past years. Incidents like this remind us that it is difficult to predict what sort of disaster you need to be prepared for and as such, you need a well thought out communications policy before disaster strikes.
In the end it is better to have a great policy and not need it than to have a disaster and not be prepared.
It is my sincere hope that the world learns from this incident and that these poor people who died will live on in the disaster preparedness accomplishments towards safety and security we make in their honor.