Virginia Tech’s shooting massacre in 2007 changed the way universities and other public institutions respond to crises. As a result of the slow, manual campus warning system in place on the day a deranged gunman killed 32 people, emergency and crisis response leaders more rapid alert protocols, adding blast texts and emails along with other traditional warnings.
Yesterday, Virginia Tech had another scare; this time with a more rapid response. In mid-morning, there were reports of an armed person walking around the campus. Though a suspect had not yet been found, the campus authorities quickly implemented the revised emergency alert system.
According to news reports, the first text went out 30 minutes after individuals first spotted a suspect. Since there was no actual shooting incident and the authorities needed to verify the information, this appears to qualify as rapid response. During this time law enforcement teams were converging on the campus. According the Washington Post, more than 48,000 students and campus personnel received a text message alert and that an e-mail alert was sent to every student and school employee. The local Virginia Pilot reported a few more details. “The university sent out alerts via outdoor loudspeakers, text message, blast email, desktop alert, phone messages, the vt.edu homepage, Twitter, Facebook and electronic classroom signs.”
Larry Hincker, a university spokesman, told the Post: “We really need to communicate first and investigate later, and that’s what we did.”
We all know crises do occur. The question is what we learn from each one and how we improve for the next time. Virginia Tech appears to have made significant progress. Do you know of other universities or public institutions that have improved their warning systems?