Editorial: combating disaster apathy


Colin Stevenson

Active vigilance can allow proper responses to legitimate threats in our lives, April 11.

Monday morning at Wichita Falls High School, a bomb threat brought an abrupt halt to the day and forced an evacuation of the school. Shortly thereafter, the Wichita Falls Fire Department swept and cleared the building and WFHS announced the threat was not credible. Such threats have become all-too-common on campuses and at schools across the country. What was once a shocking occurrence regardless of locale has become commonplace enough that it rarely elicits the same reactions as it once did. Instead of widespread fear, community unrest and demands for action or change, these false alarms are moving closer to an inconvenience for some.

There’s a silver lining to this new pattern, which is that people are less afraid. With less fear comes decreased reaction, which hopefully will deter anyone considering calling in a false threat for the sake of attention or to elicit a reaction. But this growing attitude of acceptance also has the potential to lead to a far worse effect; if people don’t continue to react swiftly and vigilantly to false alarms, there’s a chance they won’t react appropriately in the event of a real threat.

Eric Queller, management senior and emergency management specialist for the Wichita Falls Office of Emergency Management, was a responder at the Wichita Falls High School incident. Queller said campuses like MSU can become sign-blind and fall into a pattern of apathy.

“I think as a society, we’ve kind of collectively said ‘This is a factor of life and we have to, there’s nothing we can do about it.’ That’s just a personal level of, ‘I still have to go to class and I still do my actions and motions.’ That’s a reality of life is we’re going to have to deal with something,” Queller said. He added that there’s a balance between living in fear and living in reality.

“My goal is never to scare the public. I’m not sitting there, you know, waving the flag and alarm bells going. ‘You need to prepare, you need to do this, you need to be a doomsday prepper.’ It needs to be, you need to integrate those preparedness items into your normal daily lives. You know, be vigilant,” Queller said.

For students, faculty and staff, it’s difficult to maintain a focused mindset when false threats arise. It can be easy to assume that the next threat will be a false one, but instead it could be a deadly one. 

Interim President Keith Lamb said that while there is a danger to the populace becoming more apathetic, those tasked with leading in times of crisis are anything but disinterested.

“I think there are two ways to look at it. Is there apathy amongst people? Yeah, there probably is in just about everything. I think the key is, is there apathy amongst our first responders, our emergency preparedness folks? And I think the answer to that is no, there’s not,” Lamb said.

Ultimately, it’s up to MSU students, faculty and staff to remain vigilant. There isn’t any way to know when the next threat may come, but with the proper precautions and taking the right actions when threats are called in, MSU can combat disaster apathy and be properly prepared.