Thursday, June 12, 2014

How are they against tornadoes?

Joanne Jacobs had a story about an allegedly bulletproof blanket that schools can buy (at $1000 for 3, and I can see an entire Simpsons episode about how the teachers figure out which students are "worth" protecting with a shortage of blankets).

I don't know. For a lot of reasons, this makes me sad:

- there are probably better, more pro-active solutions to the slim risk of an "active shooter situation" than to have the kids cower under blankets.

- Even though "active shooter situations" seem more common than they once were (though I wonder how much of it is filling-the-24-hour-news-cycle), they're still more rare than other threats that kids face

- The blankets are expensive, but some schools will probably feel compelled to spend limited funds on them, at the insistence of parents.

- Teaching kids to cower in the face of danger seems distasteful to me. Yes, I get that in a shooter situation hitting the ground and playing dead may be what saves you, but  honestly? As a kid who was a major worrier, the idea that "someone might come in the school and shoot it up so we have these blankets" would really make me feel uneasy.

- And anyway, kids are already being told, "We suspect you of carrying contraband" (the clear or mesh-only backpacks) or "We think someone is going to bring a weapon in" (metal detectors in some schools). There's a weird siege mentality that bothers me as an adult and I know it would have bothered me as a kid.

- I tend to think it would be better to have trained staff - or, heck, like in some Texas schools, teachers who are licensed and reliable - serve as a sort of armed guard. It wouldn't have to be obvious, it wouldn't have to be adults patrolling with drawn guns, like the kids are Faberge eggs being transported through the Wild West or something.

- There are a lot of other threats that are probably more likely. Hence my title. I grew up in Ohio (I've written before about how I remember hearing about the 1974 tornado outbreak - one that caused many deaths, and in Ohio, many deaths in Xenia). The "cower in place" we learned in school was tornado drill. We'd get into one of the long halls (most of which had glass exterior doors on the end, but no one ever explained how that was OK, at least to my satisfaction). We'd get down into something like what yoginis would call "child's pose," only instead of stretching out our arms in front of us and "peacefully resting our forehead on the floor," we'd clasp our hands at the nape of the neck. The idea was, we were told, we were protecting our brain stems, so that tornado-shrapnel could not snap our spinal cords.

Even at the age of 7 or 8, I knew enough science to fear that was BS; that since the school didn't have a proper basement, they were just doing the best thing they could and if a tornado came through, the only thing to do was to pray it would miss the school, or at least miss the hallway you were in. At home, tornado warnings meant we went to the basement and got under a sturdy workbench my dad had. Luckily, in my town, the safety of those things was never tested.

But in a lot of parts of the country, I think if they're going to make an investment in the kids' safety, far better to do something like have a few reinforced safe-rooms everyone can troop into during heavy weather than to buy those blankets. (And in the photo, it still looks like parts of the kids are exposed; a commenter noted that the most they'd probably do was protect you from stray bullets.)

I know they've also come up with a college-campus version: a reinforced whiteboard a faculty member can pull down and use as a shield, presumably when they offer themselves up as a potential sacrifice to protect their students. (I don't know. Some classes I've had, I frankly don't LIKE well enough to even contemplate that.)

1 comment:

Dave E. said...

I'm skeptical of those blankets too. As far as shooters go, the money would probably be better spent on hardening doors and windows at entrances to delay them until police can get there and/or internal resistance can get organized.

I still marvel at how many homes and schools in the southern part of tornado country don't have any underground shelter. When we lived in Tulsa in the early 60s we didn't have a basement either. At school we all piled into a hallway just like you described. Schools up north here did the hallway thing too, but it was the lowest level, below ground.

What bothers me most about the anti-gun hysteria around school shootings is the intense focus on guns to the exclusion of everything else. We don't want to go to extremes, but school security should take into account a wide variety of threats. And yes, it should be tempered by the reality that the chance that any particular school will be hit is very, very small.