My first crazy courthouse story happened in the Lee County Courthouse in my hometown, Fort Myers, Florida and this post, the third in the series, is also about an event that happened in the Lee County Courthouse. As with rental cars, airplanes, hotels, and other places and things I frequent, I spend a lot of time in courthouses. I once had to count the number of jury selections in which I had been involved in order to testify as an expert witness and that count, many years ago, was almost 200. I have since lost count of the number of juries I have selected, but suffice it to say, it is a large number. All of this is to say that, because I am in courthouses on a frequent basis, I am far more likely than the average person to have unusual experiences while in a courthouse. Sometimes, my experiences are unpleasant, such as the time I was selecting a jury for a client in Fort Myers when there was a bomb scare at the courthouse. Although I have been present for several bomb scares in my life, this was the only time I have been present when there was a bomb scare in the courthouse. Lots of sirens sounded, the judge commandeered everyone in the courtroom where our jury selection was taking place, and we walked outside, as a group, escorted by several Lee County Sheriff Deputies, to a location the judge determined would be safe in the event the courthouse blew up. Needless to say, all of us were scared, not to mention unpleasantly hot in the warm sunshine of southwest Florida. The bomb squad came, followed by other police officers, firefighters, and paramedics, and there we stood, on a downtown sidewalk, while we waited for what seemed like an eternity for the entire courthouse to be checked for bombs. Thankfully, the bomb scare was a false alarm, in that no bombs were located inside or near the courthouse. When we were allowed to return, the judge gave everyone a few minutes to collect our thoughts, then jury selection continued as planned. It goes to show, one never knows what the future will hold.
Melissa’s courthouse experiences have run quite the gamut. I’m sure our clients have many crazy stories to tell as well. As for me, all I can add is that I’m glad in instances like the bombscare, or the 9-11 attacks, that those who work in the courthouses are well trained. I’m sure that, in today’s world, most conceivable courthouse scenarios have resulted in protocols and drills. It is interesting to me that emergency protocols are in use in so many environments. Take Walmart, on several occasions, I’ve noticed a list of code-colors by the cash register. That is, there is a list of what it means if a “code orange” or “code yellow” or “code brown” is called over the PA system. While there is some universality to these codes, clearly, the codes used in a retail store, a school, or a hospital will vary. The point is, someone, or many someones, took the time to think through what could happen and plan for those contingencies. As with most such planning, these protocols, procedures, and training evolve over time. The lesson for small businesses and their owners is to evaluate the workplace and consider what contingencies are likely, and how you want your team to respond. Then memorialize these details, and train the staff. Better prepared and safe than the alternative.