Messages of an active shooter were blasted out to students and faculty at Ohio State on Monday.
But instead there was no active shooter on campus and the gunshots heard were those of Ohio State police officers. The “active shooter,” was rather an attacker wielding a knife. Begging the question, does the need for accurate information outweigh timeliness?
“We have to make a quick evaluation based on information coming in. We may not always have time to properly evaluate it before we get there but we know something is happening,” said Brian Hurd, Chief of Police at John Carroll University.
“The fact the person had a knife rather than a gun is really irrelevant in how we respond to it and how we want the people that receive the message to respond and I think it was appropriate to get that message and that urgency understood,” he said.
Getting messages across to thousands of students has become standard practice for college campuses everywhere in the United States. In a matter of minutes, thousands of John Carroll students can know of an emergency on campus. Experts at the school say they’ll always go for time rather than accuracy in an emergency.
“In a crisis situation, there can always be a lot of misinformation. It’s very fluid, so I think they acted wisely getting everyone to shelter in place and be safe as they were figuring out the situation,” said Gary Homany, the Director of Risk Management at John Carroll University.
“Emergency situations are confusing at first. There’s mixed information, it’s unclear, so we all have to work through that,” said Hurd.
In 2007, Virginia Tech officials received backlash for waiting to send campus-wide communication. 32 people were killed in those shootings. Some say the death toll may have been lower if more students had been notified earlier.