The $23,100,000.00 bomb threat – was LAUSD’s response knee-jerk or smart?

The $23,100,000.00 bomb threat – was LAUSD’s response knee-jerk or smart?

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Theodore Roosevelt High by (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Today’s bomb threat cost LAUSD roughly $23,100,000 in average daily attendance.   In response to a reported electronic communication and in an abundance of caution, LAUSD officials shut down all of their school sites, sending approximately 700,000 students home for the day.  It’s easy to armchair quarterback their decision, which we will do a little bit of here, but the real question school risk managers should be asking themselves is – what would I do if faced with the same decision?

What happens tomorrow?

Events like this bomb threat and the San Bernardino shooting are not new.  They have been happening around the country and around the globe for decades.  All we have to do is look back to Sandy Hook, Columbine, Texas A&M and countless others.  There were 16 documented school shootings in the 1960’s and 20 in the 1970’s and 40 in the 1990’s (list of all school shootings).  About 10 years ago, I spoke at CASBO (Who’s crying – our lack of emergency planning) on this very subject and my speech is just as relevant today as it was then.  We have numerous incidents to point to and yet we have not taken the time to train our staff, prepare for emergencies or respond to actual events.  And when you pay (or lose) 23 million you hope you get a useful lesson out of it.  Because when we go back to school tomorrow we could be faced with the exact same situation as today.  It’s time to start planning.

As Big D Says

“Never let a good disaster go to waste.” This is the quote I hear every time a national event occurs and I heard it again today.  If you take anything away from the LAUSD bomb threat it is this – get your staff on board for training, because at an estimated $23 million in lost ADA, training and preparation is much cheaper.  Certainly, shutting down every school across 4,000 square miles of territory is not the smartest decision when it comes to risk management, but when you don’t know your emergency plan inside and out, it may appear to be the safest choice.  IT should have been trained to track down electronic communications and establish credibility.

Emergency planning is larger than ever before

Bomb threats are not new.  I remember bomb threats in the 1980’s being phoned into our schools in rural Missouri, unfortunately, times have changed.  Now we receive bomb threats through emails and text messages.  Our emergency plans need to change with the times and our response plans need to change also.  We need new training, new tools to deal with events like these.  And the same holds true for power outages, bullying, financial losses and many other types of disasters and emergencies.  As risk managers, we need to think in terms of new threats and make appropriate responses to those threats.  Because knee-jerk reactions have serious large implications and dismissing threats is just as serious.

Take a moment and let us know how you would have handled a bomb threat at your school site by leaving a comment below.

 

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