Why “Boatlift” Exposes Drastic Flaws in Traditional School Safety Planning

500,000 people were rescued from Lower Manhattan on 9/11.  Did you know that?  I didn’t – not until well down the path of my doctoral research.  It was an incredible in-the-moment coordination of countless variables by largely “untrained” sailors that had not previously worked together.  The context was precarious as another plane could be inbound or a bridge wired with explosives.  The situation was fluid.  Sensemaking (please see Weick’s theory), or good old-fashioned “gut feeling” and tacit knowledge (AKA intuition) took over and led to a successful rescue that took a mere 9 hours.  For perspective, fewer soldiers were rescued from Normandy in 2 days in WWII in a coordinated effort by trained forces.  So, why is this a big deal?  Boatlift was impossible.  It defies theories – sure, it might hold true to part of some theories, but it defies conventional theories.  I won’t budge from that proclamation.  Why was the rescue from Hurricane Katrina (of which there were days of forewarning) a complete flop in comparison to Lower Manhattan?  Think about it.  Then think of how we train staff and students to respond to a school intruder situation?  See where I’m headed with this…  In time you can read more about this in my upcoming book, Lessons of Lower Manhattan.  For now, prepare for the revelation that K-12 school safety planning (intruder / active shooter specific) might be turned on its ear.

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