Monday, August 26, 2013

Bullets and White Boards: School Safety Issues

Along with the usual Labor Day stories about problems with school funding and reminders that it is only six short weeks until the next three-day weekend, the media will also report on school shootings. Sadly, we have already seen a couple of incidents. With Sandy Hook in mind, a number of companies have come out with "protective" school equipment and they are getting plenty of media attention.

One article in particular caught my eye.  Perhaps you've seen it? Small, bulletproof white boards that will be furnished to some college professors were the subject of a brief story in The Baltimore Sun.  (You can read it here.)

A number of things came to mind as I read the story:
  • Only the professors are important. No white boards for the kids.
  •  An 18 x 20 inch board will not protect much of an adult's body. If one protects one's head, the torso is exposed. Cover the torso and the head is vulnerable. While the bullets are flying, the user must decide what vital body part is most important.
  • The school administrators have no concept of realistic safety alternatives and obviously didn't consult someone who does. 
I chatted with a couple of police officers about these boards. One asked where the board would be kept while the teacher is teaching. On the floor? All the victims at Sandy Hook were killed within a five minute time frame, the shooter going rapidly from room to room.  By the time a professor reacts to what is happening and gets a board into place, the shooter has already reloaded and is moving on to the next target. The other officer pointed out that holding onto a board that is being hit by multiple bullets would be difficult. One product promotional video shows a mannequin seated in a straight-back chair while the bullets strike the board. Would a standing petite female be able to absorb the impact without dropping the board?  The officer didn't think so.

School administrators have a responsibility to approach this frightening subject matter with clear-headed, unemotional thoughtfulness. Lives really do depend on their decisions and choices.  Administrators need educating when it comes to safety. They must communicate with law enforcement experts who can help them prepare an appropriate plan and put that plan into action.

In other words, are bulletproof white boards saying what the university really wants to say?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Talking to Patients a Possible Miracle Cure?

I didn't write my blogs last week because a friend (I'll call her Mary) was in the hospital and that required my focus.

Being admitted to the hospital unexpectedly is frightening, particularly if, like Mary, one has never been there before. As the nurses and aides move through their prescribed routine, I saw lots of pleasant faces but very little communication.

It all began in the emergency room where the doctor took one look at Mary and announced she would be admitted immediately. In her mind, her condition was now dire and the trepidation she already felt was augmented by the very real fear of death. 

After Mary was taken up to her room, there was the usual bustle as she was hooked up to the equipment. Oxygen levels were measured; blood pressure taken. And then the heart monitor. She was in for a severe infection so the heart monitor added to Mary's alarm. Not knowing she could and should ask questions, she accepted all this mutely, all the while her anxiety building.

Next came the very pleasant aide, wheeling in her cart-mounted computer. She  went about her admission routine with great humor and charm. But have you ever really thought about those questions or why they are being asked? Imagine that you are hearing them for the first time? How would you feel?

After running through all the questions and confirming the medications Mary was currently taking, the aide listed the drugs my friend would be given. Mary went white as she tried to understand why the hospital was about to administer things that had nothing to do with her condition and which might interact with something she was already taking. Fortunately, she refused two of them because a later check with her own physician verified that these drugs would have been inappropriate.

Watching all this confirmed my feelings about our medical system. We have the latest and greatest technology available to us and that saves lives, no doubt about it. But there is still little communication between the patient and the medical staff treating that person. Not once did anyone stop during their per-ordained process and actually talk to Mary. No one discussed what was happening in her body, how serious it was, and the likelihood that the treatment plan would be successful.  She was left wondering if she had enough time to get her affairs in order. 

Everyone agrees that a good mental attitude is critical to the healing process. If we do not have a positive outlook and believe we will get well, our recovery can be severely hampered. Why not, then, take five minutes and address the patient's emotional condition as well as her physical one. 

A little communication could be the miracle cure everyone wants.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cold Caller's Comeback Leaves Client Chilly

I respect all sales people who pound the pavement making cold calls, particularly when the weather is lousy. It must be difficult to approach total strangers and ask them to do business with you. If you're lucky, you represent a company with a good reputation and a few folk might be willing to chat with you. Otherwise, you will receive a variety of responses ranging from simple "no" to rude dismissals.

Although there is a "no soliciting" sign on our door, sales people stop in our office several times a week to sell me everything from office supplies to electricity. I try to be polite when I refuse them because I know their job is a tough one.

There is a company in our area that must use our town as a training ground. Every few days, people stop in to give me their pitch. Each time, I explain that we get those items from a client and as long as that relationship is in place, we will not be doing business with any other company. I've tried, without success, to get them to take us off their list. On Thursday, a man and a woman came in. I told them the same thing: we will not do business with you at this time and please remove us from your list.

The response from the woman as she turned to leave was, "Then I'll get out of your hair."

That woman communicated a lot. In that one statement I learned that she didn't want to be making cold calls, she couldn't care less whether or not I gave her any business, and she had not been properly trained. If I were to make a guess I'd say that being a sales rep was not working out the way she had envisioned it. I hope her manager spends some time with her and helps her improve her approach. Otherwise I think she will continue sending potential customer the wrong message.

Do you think I'm right about my interpretation of her feelings?  Would you do business with her?