Be afraid. Be very…oh, never mind. Across the country’s campuses, seemingly strange events have lately raised suspicion—a nurse giving doses of flu shots on a Minneapolis campus, for instance, flees upon being asked for credentials. This episode, among others, inspired one Missoula resident into action. She is doing her email-best to alert this community that Missoula would be better off if the University of Montana placed itself at the heart of a community-wide “terror alert fast response team.” This, according to a series of emails received from Leigh Waters, who did not respond to emailed requests for an interview. (Repeated phone calls to the area’s only L. Waters yielded only extended ringing.)
An early December email from Waters shares her hopes for the community.
“I feel that the university could form the ‘hub response team’ that could save many lives in the event that some kind of attack took place either in Missoula, or on or near campus,” she wrote then.
Capt. Jim Lemcke, with UM’s public safety office, has received Waters’ emailed pleas for a terror-response hub at the University.
But “That’s not how the world works,” says Lemcke.
In fact, he says, the city, county, UM and Montana University System all already have emergency response plans. At UM, standard emergency procedures have been beefed up since 9/11. Now, officers conduct safety sweeps of the stadium before each football game. To date, the targeted snooping hasn’t turned up anything remotely suspicious, he says.
The biggest emergency to which UM officers have been called to respond, Lemcke says, was 2002’s summer snowstorm. While administrators and mid-level managers were conferring about what to do, he says, UM employees lower down on the food chain were already rolling up their sleeves and cleaning up the brambly mess. “The guys on the ground, they know their job. So they went out and did it,” he says. And who are they? “Labor—grounds, custodians…You know, the people who work for a living,” Lemcke says.
Lemcke doesn’t fault Waters for her email alerts, though: “All these things that Leigh had in mind are good ideas; they’re just not new.”