Monday, June 16, 2008

What if?

The floods in Iowa illustrate the need for all communities to plan for the worst case scenario. It may not be feasible to build levees tall enough to withstand 500 year floods but it is important to have an answer for the question, what if? Those reading this blog may argue, you could “what if” for countless scenarios but you only have some much time and resources available. Agreed, you can’t spend time and money for every possibility so perhaps thinking about the worst and trying to have plans to manage the unimaginable is the best solution. As it appears while I write this entry, emergency planners in Iowa failed to consider “what if” the levees fail? You may lack the funding to build the ultimate flood wall (and what’s the point? Mother Nature always plays her trump card) but you need to walk-through actions in the event you do get hit with the unthinkable.

College leadership also prefer to ignore the “what-if” question. What if a disgruntled employee shows up on campus with a firearm? What if a former student decides to get revenge on faculty and students? What if a total stranger comes on campus goes on a rampaged with a knife (similar to what happened in Japan recently)? There are a number of reasons why these are not considered usually though the most common reason is lack of funding. I find this interesting given the negative impact any of the above “what if” scenarios would have to financial support to the college. People have a tendency to give up when confronted with “what if” and choose to ignore the possibility rather than seek a solution. Instead what college leaders and community leaders need to consider is how to respond when “what if” becomes “what is”. You can ignore “what if” but “what is” will force you to respond and unfortunately that response will be under the scrutiny of the media and public.

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