6 schools that mastered their campus emergency responses

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled last week that Virginia Tech did not act negligently when it didn't immediately issue campus warnings following the shootings of Seung-Hui Cho's first two victims on April 16, 2007. What nobody knew at the time, and what the court said Virginia Tech couldn't have reasonably foreseen, was that the troubled student would return to campus and take 30 more lives.

The events of that day, the second-worst act of mass murder at a U.S. school in history, changed the way campuses address emergency situations, using a steady stream of social media updates and text alerts to keep students in the loop, as well as inform them of counseling and other services available in the aftermath. As evidenced by Friday's shooting at Los Angeles International Airport, other organizations have taken note, as well.

So who's excelling at keeping students and the public up to date during campus tragedies? We took a look at the responses from institutions that experienced shooting incidents this year and found 6 that stood out above the rest.



Though it turned out to be a false alarm, Central Connecticut State University immediately took action Monday when an armed man in a tactical vest was reported on campus, initiating a lockdown and alerting police. We now know that student David Kyem was merely still in costume as G.I. Joe character Snake Eyes upon returning from a Halloween weekend at UConn. In retrospect, that might make the massive police response seem like a bit much, especially since Kyem wasn't even aware that he was who cops were looking for, but it's important to note that this is the same state that experienced the Newton elementary school tragedy not even a year ago. It's also probably worth noting that Kyem, who was arrested again Tuesday for criminal trespassing after returning to campus without first speaking to the Office of Student Conduct, would have also been better off not carrying fake weapons around campus.

Regardless, CCSU should be commended for the steady stream of information released throughout the day via Twitter and Facebook.




North Carolina A&T University's homecoming took a violent turn this weekend when what police believe to be four suspects armed with handguns fired shots near McCain Hall around 10 p.m. Saturday. Devine Eatmon, a 21-year-old student, was hit by one of the bullets from an unspecified distance, and it wasn't clear whether anyone was intentionally targeted. Police from the campus and the city of Greensboro were quick to respond and put a lockdown in place, and after the lockdown was lifted an hour later, campus officials continued to urge students to stay indoors for their own safety as police remained on "high alert."



Police at North Carolina Central University received reports of shots fired near the school's Durham campus at 10:15 p.m. on Sept. 23, resulting in a campus lockdown. When the suspect was approached by officers, he allegedly threatened them with a handgun and was subsequently shot dead. 

The university was quick in its response, updating the campus community on Twitter and directing students to a statement from Chancellor Debra Saunders-White.



A Santa Monica College shooting on June 7 left five dead, including the gunman, and still more wounded. Two of the deceased, believed to be the shooter's father and brother, were found in a burning home. Within a one-mile distance, the gunman shot at a vehicle while exiting the house, carjacked another, fired on a Santa Monica bus, killed the driver of a red Ford Explorer on SMC's Lot 1, and exited the vehicle before killing another victim outside of the school's library, which he then entered. There, he was involved in a firefight with police that left him fatally injured. 

What was a frightening day for all on the campus and in the nearby community was surely made easier by the social media response keeping everyone up to date on what was happening. The majority of SMC's updates were on Facebook, which it directed those on Twitter to, though its tweets provided a less-constant stream of info.



Tragedy struck a mall branch of New River Community College in Christianburg, Va., when a man entered on a Friday afternoon in April and shot two women. One victim was airlifted, while the other was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Students and staff fled the scene and police ultimately subdued the shooter before the incident could get any worse.



Former student James Oliver Seevakumaran, who was still living in the campus' Tower 1 dorm, reportedly pulled a fire alarm shortly after midnight on March 18 and planned to shoot other residents while they evacuated the building. The 30-year-old changed his mind and shot himself after pulling a gun on a roommate who escaped to the bathroom and called 911. In his room, police found writings indicating a "planned attack," an assault rifle with a 28-bullet magazine, a handgun, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a backpack with handmade explosives.

UCF had a tweet up by 3 a.m.—pretty quick, given the time of night the incident occurred. Regular updates followed for two days on Twitter, not to mention the regular posts on Facebook the day of the incident.


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Filed Under: Higher Ed Policy & Regulation
Top image credit: Flickr user Smarterlam