UNCW releases report into alert system failure during shooting near campus
WILMINGTON, NC (UNCW) — The University of North Carolina Wilmington has completed and released an After Action Report describing its response to a shooting incident that took place at approximately 4:20 p.m., Friday, July 29, 2011, at the Seahawk Square apartment complex, adjacent to the university.
The report looked at the response itself, along with the timing of communications related to the incident and public safety issues. It found that proper procedures were followed in responding to the incident. However, information about the incident was not disseminated to the campus community as quickly as it could have been. Using a variety of sources, including radio recordings, call logs, phone records and employee interviews, the after action review process identified communication issues that resulted in delays in notifying the campus community. The report recommends a number of action steps to ensure timely communication to the campus in future off-campus incidents.
“Our ultimate goal as a police department and as a university is to provide the safest possible environment in which our students and employees can study and work,” said UPD Chief David Donaldson. “Discussing and implementing the findings and recommendations in this report will help us meet that goal by improving our emergency notification to the campus community.”
Findings noted in the report include:
• Two UPD units responded to the scene of the shooting and performed in a tactically efficient manner. However, neither the units nor the patrol commander activated the campus emergency communication system until instructed to do so. The findings suggest that while confirmation of a dangerous situation, which potentially threatened the safety of UNCW students and employees, was available as early at 4:31 p.m., a UPD telecommunicator (dispatcher) was not instructed to send an emergency notification message until 20 minutes later.
• The two experienced telecommunicators working the UPD desk during the incident were thoroughly trained on the university’s emergency messaging system. However, the off-campus nature of the incident caused a delay in informing the community in a timely manner. The review identified the need for additional telecommunications equipment and training, a separation of duties among the telecommunicators to improve response time, and specific procedures related to handling notification of off-campus incidents.
• During the incident, the Wilmington Police Department (WPD), which had jurisdiction over the incident, inadvertently switched to a radio frequency channel that was unavailable to UPD units. This placed UPD units and university staff in the position of making decisions without the benefit of knowing the decisions and actions being taken by WPD units.
Given the time lapse in constructing an emergency message and the evolving nature of the incident, it was determined by the UPD police chief, in consultation with the university’s public information officer, to communicate the status of the incident via mass email. The university is acting on the recommendations made in response to the findings described in the After Action Report.
Following are some of the recommendations; the full list of recommendations is available in the text of the report here.
• Review of university and UPD policies and procedures to ensure that they appropriately address off-campus incidents that occur in close proximity to university property, including the authorization to activate the university’s emergency notification system. Procedures must include back-up measures to be taken in the event UPD telecommunicators are unsuccessful or unable to release an emergency message.
• Modification of training for the university’s emergency notification system to focus on making initial communications brief and direct, and to ensure UPD Telecommunicators demonstrate proficiency in the system not only on a daily basis, but during crisis situations as well.
• Install a separate computer/system at the UPD desk to support the emergency messaging system to assist operators in avoiding unnecessary distractions and call interruptions when working within the system.
• During situations when two police telecommunicators are working the UPD Desk, the roles of each and specific tasks they should undertake during an emergency should be designated.
• Coordination of radio frequencies used by responding law enforcement agencies.
Immediate action is being taken within UPD to implement these and the other recommendations listed in the After Action Report.
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