by Irma Pelt
Senior Staff Writer
With the imminent threat of the H1N1 virus dissipated, one university is seeking the next potential health crisis.
“We found that planning for the H1N1 virus was more rewarding than we could have imagined,” said Joel Rackett, Director of Health Services at Bowlby College.
Rackett outlined the structure of the committee formed last spring to plan for the pandemic that seemed ready to take campuses by storm. “I ran a committee of staff members from every department within student affairs, all senior level academic officers, the chief of campus police, and a member of the Board of Trustees. They respected me and we got a lot of attention.”
“Our committee met weekly and conference called every morning with updates,” said Rackett. “The effort and planning we put into the H1N1 situation was unparalleled, and everyone knew my name.”
The H1N1 virus, originally anticipated to be a widespread pandemic disease that would shut down college campuses and cause scores of deaths, turned out to be only moderately worse than the regular influenza.
“We were famous,” said Rackett. “We had this great plan, and for the first time people visited our website. We were considered kind of a big deal with the county health department, but now it’s like everyone’s forgotten how important we were. For a while, we were living in our very own Stephen King story.”
Bowlby College’s plan had included utilizing vacant residence hall space as an infirmary and storing the bodies of the deceased in dining hall freezers.
Racket said the plan, which totaled several hundred pages and was distributed to every member of the university community and students’ parents, is null and void. He estimated that more than 600 hours of planning went into the plan, not including the overnight trip the committee took to Skrimtown University, the first campus with a known case of H1N1 virus.
“It was only our plan for H1N1,” said Rackett. “It would be selfishly optimistic to assume that those plans would get us through a different health scare,” said Rackett, who scours the Center for Disease Control’s website daily, hoping to find the next disease or outbreak.
“Until something comes up, we’re going to assemble a committee to plan for large plumes of volcanic ash, like what’s happening in Iceland,” Rackett said.
There are no known volcanos within 3,000 miles of Bowlby’s campus.