It May be Time to Brush Up On Your Campus Emergency Plan

A shooting on campus is every higher education employee’s worst nightmare.

There was an interesting post in yesteday’s Wired Campus about the University of Alabama at Huntsville‘s emergency alert system.

Last week, there was a shooting on their campus and sadly, three faculty members were killed, two other faculty members and one staff assistant was injured in the shooting. While their response after the fact has been very good, people on their campus are upset that an emergency text alert was not sent until an hour after the shooting was reported. Officials at the school report the shooter was apprehended minutes after a 911 call. The school posted this time line:

University, local, state and federal law enforcement officials arrived on the scene at 4:01 and the alleged shooter was apprehended without incident at 4:10, according to university police. Residence halls on the campus were locked down at 4:10 as a precaution. The campus was closed at 4:42 p.m. University and local law enforcement officials swept and secured the building by 5:45, confirming that no other victims were found

Despite that and the fact the event was contained to one building, an alert should have been immediately sent out, notifying people on campus to stay put and lock doors and windows until further notice. It’s always better to err on the side of caution in situations as of these, as I’m sure word had already spread about the event on Facebook and Twitter. The UAH police chief added this about the alert system:

The U-Alert was triggered late because the people involved in activating that system were involved in responding to the shooting.

At two institutions I have worked for, there were multiple people tasked with the ability to send out alerts, ranging from the Dean of Students, Security Chief and all the way down to me as web guy. That way, all it takes a phone call and the message can go out immediately.

Since the Virginia Tech tragedy, pretty much all of us have instituted text alert systems and have reviewed and streamlined emergency preparation plans across campus. Now would be a good time to review your role in emergency planning and response as a web person on your campus and if there isn’t a specific time line or set of ready text messages standing by, you may want to speak up and have those things added in to your plan.