News

College shooting: Alert systems failed, faculty members say

By Ian K. Kullgren, The Oregonian
October 7th, 2015

shooting-alertEmergency alert systems at Umpqua Community College may have failed to warn students and faculty of a shooter on campus Oct. 1.

Three associate professors told The Oregonian/OregonLive they did not receive emergency notifications that were supposed to show up on computers connected to a college network. Two of the three also said they were enrolled in that should have sent them a text message, but they never received one.

Rita Cavin, the interim college president, said on Oct. 2, the day after the shootings, that she had received conflicting reports of warning-system malfunctions.

“It’s too early to tell,” Cavin said. “We can’t get on campus. We’re really focused on our students, helping them get back to their cars and their property.” The school was closed Friday. The campus will reopen Monday, but classes have been canceled through Oct. 9.

There’s no way to know whether proper alerts would have saved lives or prevented injuries as gunman Christopher Harper-Mercer opened fire in a writing class, ultimately killing nine and injuring nine more in a 10-minute rampage.

The faculty members said the only warning they received was an email that a secretary appears to have sent manually as police began arriving on campus.

Ken Carloni, an associate professor and chairman of the Science Department, said he should have seen a message scroll across his computer screen as the shooting unfolded. Instead, he learned a gunman was on campus when a colleague ducked into his office and told him.

He started pulling students out of classrooms into a hallway designated as a gathering place during a lockdown.

On Friday, he wondered if the shooting happened too fast for the computer warning system to be triggered.

“It’s got to go to a central place before all of those systems get activated. In 10 minutes, how could that information have gotten up there?” He added: “Where that system broke down I’m sure will be the subject of much discussion and scrutiny.”

A secretary in the facilities department named Kathy Frazer did send a campuswide email at 10:42 a.m., four minutes after dispatchers received the first 911 calls.

“Shooting on campus. Please go into lockdown. Not a drill,” she wrote in the email, which was shared with The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Remembering Oregon shooting victims: students starting out, passionate writing instructor The nine victims who died in the Umpqua Community College shooting have been identified. Family and friends share their memories of each one whose ages range from 18 to 67 years old.

Carloni praised Frazer, who could not be reached. “She could have exposed herself to extra danger by doing that,” he said.

John Blackwood, a computer information systems professor, said he was also puzzled that he never received an automatic alert on his classroom desktop computer.

Blackwood said he was teaching a lab Thursday morning with a half-dozen students crowded around his computer when another student came up and told him to check his email.

“The emergency notification that should have popped up on all the computers did not occur,” Blackwood said.
He also checked his phone for texts. Nothing.

“The second notification system, which would have been sent to all students and all faculty who registered for the emergency notification system — as everyone is encouraged to do — did not function either,” he said.
Blackwood saw Frazer’s warning email and concluded that “the other two systems had not fired.”

He interrupted the class next door, where the professor was lecturing with her computer projected onto a classroom screen. No alert there, either.

Associate professor Nancy Nowak, meanwhile, said she learned of the shooting after a colleague in the office next-door started shouting. She said she also received the email but didn’t see alerts on her cellphone or computer screen.

“I’m not sure what was going on with that. I’m not sure if the whole system was overloaded,” Nowak said. “When there have been snow days, I know there’s been a message.”

Faculty members attended a mandatory presentation on emergency lockdowns on Sept. 21, before the semester began, according to a schedule obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Blackwood and Nowak said they couldn’t remember whether the alert system was discussed.

Kelly Rigsby, the campus security director who gave the presentation that day, could not be reached for comment.

Jeff Manning contributed.
— Ian K. Kullgren and Fedor Zarkhin

©2015 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.). Visit The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) at www.oregonian.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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