Emergency alert system failed during alleged gunmen incident

Kari Thumlert

A message system implemented to alert the campus community in the event of an emergency failed to do so in March when alleged gunmen chased two students at the CSUN dorms.

Connect-Ed is the broadcast system being using to send out campus-wide alerts simultaneously to phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all students, faculty and staff on file.

“The (Department of Public Safety) is prepared for anything; we are even prepared for an airline crash,” said Anne Glavin, CSUN chief of police at a press conference a week after the Virginia Tech massacre.

“We clearly did not handle the communication effectively,” said Terry Piper, vice president of student affairs.

“(An) attempt to send an alert was made,” but because of a mix-up of available databases, the attempt failed.

The designated person in charge of the alert system was unreachable and a backup person from DPS was contacted at home. That person then called Connect-Ed to have the University Park Apartments’ residents database accessed because they didn’t want to cause panic to the rest of the campus community. However, a database for solely UPA contacts had not been created, thus causing the delay.

By the time the database issue had been fixed, the incident had also been resolved 45 minutes later and because the administration was unaware of the outside media reports, they decided not to use the alert system, said Piper.

Further, had the administration known that the incident was broadcasted falsely by outside media as a lock-down and evacuation situation, they would have probably sent out the alert campus-wide.

Piper said a UPA residents database has now been created and we have more designated and backup people, but he said he was unsure if someone is available on campus at all times.

Radiologic technology freshman Amanda Grady said, “Possible gunmen in the lobby of the UPA is an emergency…We should have been notified whether outside media reported the incident or not.”

Piper said, “We would all like to know what is going on around us all the time. Connect-Ed is an emergency system, not an information broadcast system.”