Officials defends alert systems despite criticism from students


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In light of shots being fired on the Iowa State University campus, school officials were quick to defend alert systems used to inform students about campus-wide threats, while students believed some improvements could be made.

“It would be really foolish to send out an alert with ‘shots fired,’ and I think it would cause more harm than good,” said Iowa State University News Service Director Annette Hacker.

Hacker said Iowa State initially waited to send out the campus alert so officials could provide students information about what students should do in response to the situation. 

According to the Iowa State Daily, Ames police initiated a normal traffic stop around 10 a.m. when the driver failed to stop and instead backed up an attached trailer on the hood of a police car.

Six shots were later fired at the suspect, who was pronounced dead at the Greely Medical Center Monday afternoon.

One ISU freshman was at the scene when the shots were fired, and said she was disappointed with the lengthy response time from the alert.

“I think they could have sent it out a little earlier, because they did 20 minutes after it happened,” freshman Mackenzie Locey said. “I was there when it happened, I was running away from the truck that was driving recklessly, so I was like ‘Well thanks for that, I almost died 20 minutes ago but good to know now.’ ”

Locey said there has been one other ISU alert this school year, and it was more timely.

“The alert went out while it was happening,” she said. “They should send alerts out while it happens, or if they have to do it after it happens, then [they should send an alert] five minutes after, not a whole 20 minutes. Everyone already heard about what happened; stories had been told.”

Hacker said the alert was sent out at 10:51 a.m., but has to go through normal distribution times, which means as little as one to two minutes for an email to up to 30 minutes for a voice mail.

Hacker said before an alert can be sent out, police have to respond and secure the area. Police then tell university relations or other specific departments to send an ISU alert. Before the alert is sent out in a text, email, or voice message, instructions for how students should react are added.

The University of Iowa uses the same Black Board Connect system as ISU. A UI police official said the time it takes for a Hawk Alert to be sent out depends on the same factors Hacker pointed out.

“We will modify the message based on the mode it’s going out in, but [the overall] message depends on the circumstances you have,” said Chuck Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police.

ISU sophomore Catherine Erb said despite time restrictions, the alert should be sooner to help with safety measures.

“I thought it was too long, but I understand the university’s thought process behind it,” Erb said. “I think as soon as it happens you need to let people know immediately. The voice mail [she received as an alert] said to avoid the area, but I walked right by it without even realizing it.”

Another ISU student noted that in addition to many students hearing about the gunshots over social media first, when the alerts were received, information was lacking.

“I think I would have been a little frustrated if I was on campus and didn’t know what was going on,” freshman Amy Whiteman said. “The alert just said gunshots were fired due to a police interaction … you hear these reports of mass murders on campus, and you don’t want to assume the worst.”

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