How would we deal with an emergency?

By Max Loos

A number of colleges were forced to evacuate because of the recent floods in Minnesota and North Dakota region. Do you know what you would do in case of an emergency?In recent years, the Facilities Management and Safety and Security offices have been constantly evaluating and updating Macalester’s procedures for various emergency situations, from fire or tornado disasters to potential hostage or shooting situations. Macalester students, however, do not seem to have noticed.

While there is a list of emergency procedures for students posted on the Safety and Security department’s webpage, many Macalester students remain blissfully unaware of the existence of these procedures.

“I don’t think about that stuff at this school at all,” said Ana Miscolta-Cameron ’11.

But Director of Safety and Security Terry Gorman, who has helped design Macalester’s emergency procedures, had a different attitude about emergency and disaster situations on campus.

“Unfortunately, these situations happen in places,” he said.

Safety and Security has its own plans and procedures for dealing with emergency and disaster situations, though Gorman pointed out that most of them apply mainly to the aftermath of such situations.

“We step in and do things as emergency services are driving away,” he said. Gorman also said that Safety and Security’s emergency procedures are designed not to be too specific.

“We have not gone out to say, if a tornado hits Olin-Rice, we’ll do this,” he said. “Until you have all the facts in front of you, you don’t know what card to play.”

As far as immediate responses to a serious emergency situation on campus goes, Gorman said that Safety and Security’s main concern would be aiding local emergency responders.

“For some things you have to rely on the local authorities,” he said. In case of fire or tornado damage, Security would make sure to direct firefighters to where they would be needed. In case of a situation of violence on campus, Security would do everything possible to cooperate with the police, including providing campus building floor plans.

Gorman added that further safety and security procedures, specifically geared toward students were redone in 2008, and are posted on Safety and Security’s webpage. Gorman said that the posted documents would be helpful for students encountering an emergency situation.

“It gives people a little bit of structure,” he said.

The document for Hostile or Violent Person Protocol presents itself as suggestions designed to allow a calculated response to such a situation by a student. It also provides suggestions for how to deal with being taken hostage “Displaying a certain amount of fear can possibly work to your advantage,” reads one of the suggestions.

But some Mac students, have never heard of the website, and are unaware of the procedures it lays out. Matt Kusner ’11 said that his knowledge of Macalester’s safety procedures was less than extensive.

“On a scale of one to 10, I’d say it’s like a 3.5,” he said. Kusner also said that he did not know the extension number for Security.

Miscolta-Cameron said that, other than the emergency response sticker that her RA placed on her door, she did not know many security procedures. Then she changed her mind.

“Actually, yeah, I didn’t even read that sticker,” she said.

Several Info Desk employees also said that most of what they knew about security and emergency procedures came from a brief and forgettable orientation session.

“The only disasters that come up are power outages and if someone burns their toast,” said Ellie Waughtel ’09.

She was also unsure of how she would respond to a bomb threat over the phone. The bomb threat procedures on the Safety and Security webpage include keeping the person on the phone for as long as possible and recording as much about the call as possible, including whether or not the caller has an accent.

But Waughtel did not feel that knowing certain safety procedures would necessarily always be helpful. In case of emergency, she said, “No one’s gonna follow procedure anyway.