By Farris Willingham, Editor-in-Chief
University police alerts confused students amid a campus lockdown Sept. 23.
The university was locked down for about 25 minutes after a shooting suspect ran onto campus. Police later arrested the man in Tom and Brenda McDaniel University Center.
“Police Emergency – THIS IS NO DRILL – All Campus Alert – Campus Closed – Seek Shelter,” read a text alert sent at about 7 p.m. from OCUPD.
Katelyn Baron received the message after returning to campus from her home in Missouri.
Even though Baron, music theater junior, read notifications that OCUPD ended the lockdown about three hours prior, she adhered to the new alert.
She turned out the lights in her room, closed her blinds and hid for the following hour.
“I thought we were in a lockdown again,” Baron said. “I was just very confused why I got two different sets of texts and emails.
“I stayed until I was pretty sure that nothing was wrong.”
Despite the experience, Baron said the alert system is efficient because of its immediacy.
“I think it’s very effective as long as it’s consistent,” she said, commending the police’s reaction time as well. “Even though there’s a text glitch, they do their job very well.
“If there is an error in the system, it needs to be checked.”
Officials created the Emergency Event Notification system about five years ago to broadcast safety threats on campus, said Steve Taylor, assistant police chief.
The dispatcher on duty sends out alerts via text message and email regarding an emergency, he said.
Students may sign up for the text alerts by filling out a form at een.okcu.edu.
The second set of notifications on Sunday was an error, Taylor said.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” he said. “I guess that’s ours.”
The university’s communication department was inundated with calls from parents and students seeking information during the lockdown, Taylor said.
“We are sympathetic with the parents and students,” he said. “We’re looking for a remedy to this problem.”
OCU police plan to improve the system so the campus community may be better informed during an emergency, Taylor said.
“What we’re going to give is a very brief explanation of the nature of the events,” he said.
OCU police hope to create an automated system that will be updated as new information is received during emergency events, Taylor said.
Some students think the current process is ineffective.
Officials should utilize social media to institute Twitter and Facebook alerts, instead of focusing on email, said Patrick Hylton, physics/economics junior.
“Everybody is always on Facebook,” he said. “No one says ‘Hey, I think I’m going to waste my time on my email.’ ”
Receiving emergency alerts is difficult when Cokesbury Court Apartments has a poor Wi-Fi connection, said Sean Crews, religion senior.
“In a situation like this, Wi-Fi is how people get their news,” he said.
If the police are going to communicate emergency situations through email, officials ought to guarantee students connection to Wi-Fi, Crews said.
Other students, like Lauren Analla, appreciated the system.
“I think it’s cool that they kept us informed,” said the business administration sophomore, adding that she received about four texts and emails. “They did come at different times, but they all had the same message.”
Officials should explain why the school is on lockdown, but Sunday’s alerts were effective, said Jeremy Sheets, who was off campus during the lockdown.
“It was effective in the sense of knowing what was going on,” said the cello performance graduate. “I especially appreciated the last ones that told us what happened.”
During the lockdown, Oklahoma City police arrested Sean Faherty, a suspect in a shooting at Westview Apartments, 1601 N.W. 30 St.
The suspect ran toward campus, fleeing the shooting. Faherty entered the Tom and Brenda McDaniel University Center, where Oklahoma City police apprehended him.
Read more about the incident here.