This Fall we experienced what was labeled as “the new abnormal.” Whether we were in the midst of the fires, worrying about loved ones in harm’s way, or downwind breathing dangerous smoke, northern California was rocked and ironically it wasn’t “The Big One” that did it. The fire made me rethink how I’m defining an emergency or disaster for my family and how well we’re prepared. I already had earthquake supplies but I’ve now added an air purifier for the house and a box of N95 masks to our “stash.”
The fires also made me think about how we might better prepare for emergencies as instructors. What would we do if our classrooms were no longer available? Could we continue to meet and if so, how? How would we let students know how class would continue? What tools and supplies should we add ahead of time to our teaching “stash”?
For starters, perhaps it’s time to add one more section to the course syllabus: Where/How We Will Meet in the Event of an Emergency. The following is what I tell my students in the class introduction presentation and am now thinking of adding to the syllabus:
“We all assume that nothing will interrupt the normal flow of the semester. However, in the event there is an emergency of any kind that keeps us from meeting in our regular space at our regular time, I will post an announcement on the course site with details about how we will continue class. We may meet via the videoconference tool Zoom or I may record the lecture, with notes so that it is accessible, and post it on the course site. Keep a separate copy of my contact info listed on the course site in case your technology becomes inaccessible and/or you don’t hear from me. You’ll want to contact me as soon as possible.”
If you would like to consider developing something along these lines to add to your syllabus or your course site or your opening class remarks, the information in this recently updated table will help you plan what tools you will need for the various components of your class: https://teaching.berkeley.edu/resources-ensure-your-class-always-meets. If you’re not familiar with these tools and resources, drop by the the Academic Innovation Studio to discuss your emergency course plan with a consultant. They can help you envision how to continue your course in a safe and productive manner for your students.
As Governor Brown said "…this new abnormal will continue, certainly in the next 10, 15, 20 years." I hope he's wrong. If it’s not we need to be and can be ready for it.