Lockdown Fatigue

A disturbing news article described one professor’s response to the active shooter crisis at UCLA this week. The event occurred during one of the worst times, during finals, prompting Professor Vivian Lew to suggest to her students that they complete the exam in another area regardless of the lockdown mass notification. Despite later claiming that she was not aware of the extent of the lockdown and instructions, it was an admittedly poor decision and there can be a rich discussion on how intelligence is qualified on campuses these days (see protests against Milo Yiannopoulos’s event which was later cancelled due to a bomb threat).

However, this disregard for the very real threat may be in part due to the “fatigue” from lockdown drills (before you scoff, be honest about whether you finished that email before getting up for that last fire drill). This contempt of practicing emergency procedures can be explained away as ignorance or laziness but as security and safety professionals, this attitude and behavior is a challenge that must be addressed to ensure the safety of all constituents.

Worse off, the false alarms that have visited numerous campuses (here, here, here and here for a few examples) were not practice drills but were initiated on the premise that the danger was real. The challenge for all those in charge of making such announcements is to weigh sending it out as soon as possible (most events are over in minutes) and verification of the threat. There is no simple answer but the deciding factor may be that it is easier to get over the embarrassment of a false alarm than to face the surviving family members of someone who was never warned.

What exactly occurred and the professor’s explanations are specific to this one case. Better training, consequences and common sense can help but administrators need to find a way that their constituents will quickly follow procedure. Pacing of drills, developing systems to quickly verify threats and basic role modeling are perhaps one method of making such advances. However, while response improvement is important, the effort and emphasis on prevention should be given as much, if not more, priority.