Wednesday, March 20, 2013
East Carolina University conducted the latest test of its emergency notification system on March 8, and it need look no further to the news emerging from Orlando this week to see the value of doing so. Law enforcement officials at the University of Central Florida are reporting that their swift response to a dorm fire alarm and 911 call likely prevented a would-be gunman from opening fire on students.
Though all the information about the Florida incident has yet to be made public, reviews of several school-related mass shootings show that a coordinated, rapid response by trained law enforcement professionals saves lives. It justifies the commitment East Carolina has made to continuous improvement of its emergency system through repeated testing and rigorous review.
Officials at UCF are still sifting through evidence found at an on-campus residence hall after finding a student dead early Monday morning with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Law enforcement responding to a 911 call from the man’s roommate and a nearly simultaneous fire alarm suspect that the deceased had planned a shooting rampage after they found weapons, an ammunition stockpile and two explosive devices in the dorm room.
Since the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech — and the 1999 Columbine High School attack before it — that is the nightmare of every academic institution. It is what prompted the development of an extensive emergency notification system at East Carolina and what has officials conducting frequent tests of response times and communication.
The time element was among the many lessons of Columbine, where the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office endured harsh scrutiny for the sluggish response time of its SWAT team. In contrast, the law enforcement reaction, if not that of school officials, was immediate at Virginia Tech. Police were on the scene in minutes and, according to the official report about the tragedy, stopped the violence.
Some maintain that the best way to protect a college campus is to introduce more guns to the equation. But the additional weapons could put students, staff and emergency responders at greater risk. Not everyone reacts calmly to a crisis, which are best left to professionals versed in a measured, swift approach to the threat at hand.
Minus one lengthy false alarm, East Carolina has been spared from activating its system for an emergency — and may it stay that way in perpetuity. But through its commitment to testing and continuous improvement, officials will ensure its readiness which should inspire confidence among the university community.
via The Daily Reflector.