VirginiaTech Update: Technology Didn’t Speed up Warnings

Here’s an update on the VirginiaTech shootings: an AP report published just after 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time said that it took the university two hours to compose and send out an e-mail to students warning them about the first shooting.
According to the article, that’s also the span of time between the first shooting and the second one; by the time students got the e-mail (at 9:26 a.m.), the gunman had moved to a second building and begun his rampage again. The article also quoted a student saying that there were no public address system warnings as he walked to class at 9:00 a.m. two buildings away from the location of the first shootings.
From my perspective, it certainly does seem as if the university was ill-prepared to respond quickly to the emergency by getting information where it needed to be, regardless of the channel used.
This both does and does not surprise me. On the one hand, you’d think that with all the modern technology that’s available today, it would be easy to get the word out. On the other hand, we’re talking about a campus that rarely experiences any events even remotely out of the ordinary, so it’s probably reasonable for it to have only minimal systems in place for responding to emergencies.
For those watching from afar (I refer here to video clips I watched earlier on, the dearth of warnings seemed to create a rather chaotic environment on campus, where in some areas there were people running around panicked and in others students strolled from one place to another without any apparent concern about armed police officers running about. At least one student even managed to capture part of the action related to the second shooting on his cell phone camera (I blogged about this earlier).
It will be interesting to watch as more eye-witness photos and video footage surfaces. Since most people, and especially young people, carry cell phones equipped with various types of cameras, I’m willing to bet that a fair number of students recorded what they saw.

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