Thursday, May 24, 2007

Drills And Clocks

We had a curious event on campus today. It seems that a couple of days ago an e-mail message went out to administrators announcing that the University wanted to test some new emergency procedures, put in place after the Virginia Tech tragedy. Unfortunately, it being after graduation, but before the Summer session, there are very few people on campus, including few administrators. As a consequence, we only got to hear about the drill purely by chance.

The drill consisted of everyone calling a special 'phone number at a certain time. Such an arrangement was decidedly bizarre. How, during a real emergency people are supposed to know when to call, has been left a profound mystery.

Another curious aspect concerned the fact that the exercise was supposed to be timed and coordinated by our institutional clocks. Now, these clocks, at least in my building, are notoriously unreliable. They very seldom tell the correct time. Fortunately, we found one that appeared to be behaving correctly, so that we could participate.

Of course, our clocks these days are relatively new digital ones. Although they do not look as nice as the old analogue models, they at least do not have the habit of suddenly rapidly changing their time in an apparently random manner. When we had the old clocks, I had one class through out which the clock ran backwards at a high rate of speed. It had a bit of a disturbing effect upon the class, as it felt like we were in some weird 1960s low budget time travel movie.

At the appointed hour for the drill today, we all (both of us) dutifully called the special number from our phones. We were greeted by a recording telling us that this was just a drill. Far out! However, the real issue with the whole event is why it was held today. There could not be a worse time to test the phone system. The only people around are a few diligent faculty members, such as myself who are working on research, and office staff. So, how much of a test this really proved to be, we shall probably never learn. However, I now have even less faith in our emergency procedures, although the powers that be can now claim that they have been 'tested'. Yeh, Right.

The CP


Anonymous Anonymous said...

These post V Tech "safety" drills are a part of the illusion of security. Unfortunately, everyone must play one's part.

12:28 AM  

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