I won’t be blogging tomorrow (or at least, I won’t be blogging until late in the day Pacific Time) because I’ll be attending a CERT training class. CERT stands for “Community Emergency Response Teams” and is a FEMA production. After 18 hours of class, I’ll theoretically be a member of the front line handling any local disaster, whether “man-caused” or act of God. (In our neighborhood, we’re all preparing with an eye to the next big earthquake.)
Because FEMA is behind the CERT program, it prepares the materials we’ll be using. The introducing email recommended that we read the materials before the class, so I’m currently the section having to do with terrorist attacks. It was there that I discovered this gem (emphasis mine):
Experts generally agree that there are five categories of possible terrorist weapons. The acronym CBRNE will help you remember the five categories.
5. High-yield Explosives
I have a lousy memory, so I’m always looking for shortcuts and “handles” for remembering things. Useful mnemonics and acronyms are wonderful, and I used them to great effect when I passed the bar exam (on my first try, I might add). But I ask you, how in the world is “CBRNE” a memorable acronym? There are memorable acronyms to be had, but CBRNE isn’t one of them.
If someone who was not a bureaucratic drone was dealing with this issue, he (or she) might have ordered the list thusly:
3. High-yield Explosives
Maybe it’s just me, but I think the acronym C-BERN (“In an emergency, you might “C” a “BERN”, i.e., “see a burn”) is infinitely more memorable than CBRNE, which has neither rhyme nor reason. Although shorter than “Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-yield Explosives,” I find CBRNE equally difficult to commit to memory.
And yes, I know I’m being hypercritical here, but this is the kind of thing that irks me when I’m in a classroom situation and makes me re-commit to my vow never again to attend school. After 20 years (from kindergarten through law school), I’ve had all I can stomach of that institution.