After a series of appropriately chaotic events, we think we finally have some reporting to do. This article concerns the so-called “shelter in place” drill, the subject of a saga of emails from Director of Public Safety Scott Rohde. Ten of our staff have contributed to the reporting in this article, and their contributions are much appreciated.
Our first inklings that something was astir came on Monday, February 6, 2017, when Scott Rohde sent an all-campus email about a “shelter in place” drill that would be happening on Thursday of that week:
Previously uninitiated to the phrase “shelter in place,” I found this email rather illuminating. In middle and high school, I participated in several drills and full-on lockdowns. Yes, several. See, I’m from Florida, where we have extreme weather and other things, so emergency drills are nothing new to me. But, these drills were always topically-specific. No institutional program in my experiential knowledge (except maybe, the College of Letters) has approached the sweeping interdisciplinarity of Wesleyan’s “shelter in place” drill.
Sheltering in place is the counterpart to evacuation in emergency situations. According to this email, it might be more prudent to simply stay put in certain situations. These situations include, but are not limited to: “fire or smoke blockage of exits, airborne chemical threat, violent criminal action, or a severe weather incident.”
The drill would reportedly require Wesleyan students to think about how they might shelter in place wherever they were during the drill.
However, several days later, Notorious Nor’easter Nico would put a temporary halt on shelter in place proceedings:
It was quite a funny paradox that a “severe weather incident,” which would usually require one to “shelter in place,” prevented us from sitting down and thinking about how one might shelter in place. (This feeling was echoed in a post in the since-deceased We$ Hookupz 2020.)
This perplexing series of occurrences caused me and several other Wesleying staff to remain on high alert. Whenever the drill hit, we stood ready to blog.
Some two weeks transpired and then we finally received notice that the shelter in place drill would occur on Tuesday, February 28th, 2017. At 11AM this morning, everyone on campus likely received this email:
And this text:
Four unresolved questions remained after these notifications:
- Can we really unsubscribe from Wesleyan’s emergency notification email system?
- Is it really okay to put two spaces after a period?
- Does the capitalization of “Shelter in Place” in the text notification signify that this drill is not a drill at all, But Rather The First In A Series Of Disturbing Practical Idealist Implementations Of The New World Order At A Small College In Central Connecticut Notorious For Its Histories Of Liberalism Run Amok?
- Did people actually think about how they might shelter in place?
After much thought and investigation, the answers to questions 1-3 are yes, no, and decidedly maybe. To answer the fourth question, Wesleying staff chimed in about how they participated in the drill:
medusa: “My phone and 2 other people’s phones began buzzing. We all scrambled to turn them off. Professor didn’t notice, but did have a few words about the unnecessary leaf-blowing going on outside. If anything, this was a “how to handle your phone going off during class” drill for me.”
Alix: “I made popcorn and debated whether I should hide under my bed or in my closet if I needed shelter; I decided my bed because there’s an outlet for my phone so I can livetweet my panic.”
michelle: “I listened to like 5 phones go off in the middle of class and thought about how I wanted to be sheltered in bed.”
Maya: “I was sitting in my house writing a paper, got two texts and a phone call from PSafe, decided I was in a pretty safe place, and continued sitting in my house writing a paper.”
claire: “I was about to leave my house because my neighbors decided to have very loud sex at 11am on a Tuesday. And then the drill happened. So I waited for around 5 seconds before deciding, yeah, I should go shelter someplace else.”
wilk: “I was freaking out during my test trying to convert an electron volt to joules.”
Danny: “I learned about exoplanets! And almost no attention was given to the drill.”
midmar: “I was in the middle of a sick day nap, so continued to shelter in place under a blanket.”
Meli: “We had a ‘delayed’ shelter-in-place, as we tried to ignore our own phones; Professor Robinson, once getting the phone call, decided to somehow tie our lecture about cocaine into a drill. We ultimately decided that the smaller students would be used as human shields against any unforeseen circumstance, and that we would barricade the door with something (maybe a tall person?) to protect the class.”
Sam: “My prof heard a phone, threatened to hammer it (jokingly), and then we continued ~acting~. It was only after the class that we realized we had held in place.”
As you can see, the drill prompted an assortment of responses. It is still unclear whether the “shelter in place” drill will be a yearly occurrence. After much thought, I would say that we don’t have to have an institutionally sanctioned occasion to sit down and think about how we would respond to emergency situations.
For more coverage of things like what was covered in this article, please see our post from earlier this year about what didn’t cause a fire alarm in High Rise at 4:30AM.