Virginia Tech alert system helps lock down campus after shootings

Shortly after two fatal shootings Dec. 8 on the Virginia Tech campus, the university’s alerts system began updating students, faculty and staff members of the emergency, warning them to stay inside.

The shots came during the noon hour, when a Virginia Tech police officer was fatally shot during a routine traffic stop in a campus parking lot and another person was found killed in a nearby lot, the Washington Post reported.

At 12:37 p.m., the first notice from the university’s VT Alerts system went out: “Gun shots reported- Coliseum Parking lot. Stay Inside. Secure doors. Emergency personnel responding. Call 911 for help.”

That was followed by reports that the second victim had been found, that the suspect was at large, the status of the investigation and, eventually, notice that final exams for the next morning were being postponed. By 4:31, the university announced that there was no longer an active threat and advised students to resume normal activities. Several news reports said the second person found dead was believed to be the one who had shot the police officer.

VT Alerts, one of the country’s advanced emergency notification systems, was installed after the mass shooting on the Blacksburg campus in 2007 when student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people before killing himself in the nation’s worst campus shooting.

Virginia Tech had been criticized for being slow to lock down the campus during that rampage, and responded with VT Alerts.

In an emergency, the university issues alerts via the Virginia Tech homepage, broadcast e-mails to all vt.edu accounts, electronic message boards in classrooms, the university’s weather/emergency hotline, sirens and loudspeakers on campus, and alerts issued via phone and a desktop app.

The phone and desktop alerts require people to subscribe; the others are issued automatically.

People looking for more information could also follow the Twitter feed from Virginia Tech's student newspaper, the Collegiate Times.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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