A malfunction at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, this year caused a little anxiety for the ceremony participants and the crowd, not to mention the world watching. Organizers had planned for four Olympic cauldrons to be lighted by famous Canadian athletes, but a mechanical error prevented one of the massive torches from rising from the floor. The fourth athlete didn't know how to handle the situation.
Luckily, no one was hurt, and the biggest consequence of the malfunction was just a little embarrassment. In fact, in the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, the event committee chose to take a humorous look at the glitch by having a mime come out dressed like a “clown” electrician, making it look like someone forgot to plug in that part of the torch. In the end, it got a good laugh from the crowd.
In schools, though, if things don't go as planned, there's not usually a lot of laughing. Think of the things that can go wrong during a school day based on one “malfunction:”
A security breach can mean harm to one or more students.
Improper maintenance techniques can result in a sick building, and sick kids and staff.
Deferred maintenance on a roof can mean a leak that may disrupt school for days or even weeks.
The potential list goes on and on. And unlike the Olympics, there won't be a way to laugh it off after the fact.
The good news is that with proper planning, serious malfunctions often can be avoided. Written guidelines and specific steps for disaster scenarios, weather problems and security breaches are a necessity in the school setting.
As spring approaches, it's time to dust off those emergency and security plans. Make sure they are current, and that everyone has a copy and knows the proper procedures for each situation. Even though the end of the school year is approaching, practice fire and tornado drills regularly. And if your emergency plans need some updating, take steps to ensure your serious “malfunctions” are kept to a minimum.
Lustig is executive editor of AS&U.