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Opportunity arises out of school tragedy


ONE OF THE MANY troubling facts from last week's deadly shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is that this tragedy could happen again, anywhere.

The shooting, which left 32 dead on the campus, was the worst such attack in U.S. history. Eerily, the tragedy occurred just days before the April 20 anniversary of the previous most deadly school shooting, at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Much of the nation remains in shock, and a spirited debate on how to prevent further incidents is already taking place.

Many organizations will look to their risk managers for answers, if indeed they haven't already. As our report beginning on page 1 indicates, steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of more shootings. That risk cannot be eliminated, however.

Risk management faces constant challenges in creating certainty and reducing the possibility of loss, but what can risk managers do to prevent a mentally disturbed, armed person from harming others in the open environment of an educational institution?

The University of Arizona, which years earlier also faced a fatal shooting incident, found that communication is a powerful tool. Sharing information among instructors, campus police and other administrators can identify troubled individuals and help curtail threatening behavior.

The shooting at Virginia Tech was a nightmare. But it also has provided an opportunity to find better ways to protect people, whether through improved security procedures, scenario planning or better communication technology. No one person or department can solve this problem, though, and it will take a group approach to mitigate the possibility of such a tragedy occurring again.