Safety Doesn't Happen by Accident: Disaster Planning at the University of Pittsburgh

Safety Doesn't Happen by Accident: Disaster Planning at the University of Pittsburgh

Miranda L. Nixon (University of Pittsburgh, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8624-3.ch009
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In the spring of 2012, events on the University of Pittsburgh's campus in Oakland prompted concerns about personal safety and the disaster plan for the library system. These disquieting events, coupled with the need to re-write the outdated ULS disaster plan, hastened planning efforts that had begun that very spring. Through discussion of the re-writing of the disaster plan for the University of Pittsburgh's University Library System (ULS), this chapter will educate readers on library safety concerns and potential resources that can be explored and built upon to better prepare for disasters and emergency situations. The lessons learned from this planning process will likely mirror situations other libraries find themselves in and offer guidance on where to turn and how to educate staff.
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A Tumultuous Spring

On March 8th, 2012, a Thursday afternoon, John Shick entered the lobby of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) and opened fire. Therapist Michael Schaab was killed and seven others were injured; the gunman was killed by bullets from the University of Pittsburgh Police. Shick fired from two semiautomatic handguns right before two o’clock in the afternoon (Rubinkam, Matheson, Loviglio, & Farrar, 2012). Early inaccurate reports stated there was a second shooter and a potential hostage situation that led to additional panic. Twitter feeds from people hiding inside the building, from witnesses on the street, and from people in contact with those hiding gave rise to the confusion since very few knew the accurate details. People could only speculate on what they heard or barely saw; thus reports varied widely for most of the afternoon until the police secured the situation and informed the media outlets. Heavily armed police and SWAT team members kept people back from the building and many area departments responded to the incident: the University of Pittsburgh Police, City of Pittsburgh Police, the FBI, local Sheriff’s deputies, Pennsylvania State Police troopers, and members of the South Hills SWAT team in addition to the Pittsburgh SWAT team (Gurman, et al., 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Disaster Supplies: Items that are necessary for either the survival of life or of material items but they may be difficult to locate during an emergency.

Cyber Terrorism: The use of Internet-based technologies to cause widespread panic or disrupt services for a problematic amount of time.

Active Shooter: A person who enters a well-populated area with the intent to harm or kill other individuals using a firearm.

Emergency Management: The creation and supervision of a community network that serves to reduce the risk of disasters and handle their outcomes.

Fire Safety Training: The act of teaching a person precautions for preventing a fire or reducing the harmful effects of one.

Evacuation Procedures: A set of ordered actions to take in order to quickly and safely exit a building or area being hazardously affected.

Continuity of Operations Plan: Policies and procedures designed to be temporarily used in the event of a disaster to keep normal services up and running.

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