UA sends letter explaining shooting scare

UA sends letter explaining shooting scare

CREATED Mar 28, 2013

Reporter: Justin Schecker

Web Producer: Rikki Mitchell

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV ) - The University of Arizona sent a letter Thursday explaining in detail what happened when campus went on lock down last week after reports of a gunman on campus.

Melissa Vita, chair of the UA Campus Emergency Response Team wrote in the email that UA Police were notified of the threat in text format. The person providing the information did not cooperate when asked questions by a UAPD dispatcher.

The full letter states:

"On behalf of the University of Arizona Campus Emergency Response Team (UACERT), I am writing to provide the UA community with a more detailed update on the March 22nd incident that compelled the evacuation of the UA Administration Building. I also want to share lessons learned from this experience.

What Happened
Last Friday afternoon, March 22, 2013, just before 4:52 pm, a report came into University of Arizona Police (UAPD) of a man with a gun at the Administration Building. The report originated from an unknown person using an electronic device to convey the information in text format to a third-party operator.  There was also subsequent information from the same unknown source to the third-party operator that someone had been shot at the Administration Building.

The third party operator conveyed the information to the UAPD at 4:52 p.m. last Friday. Despite repeated attempts to obtain more information, the person providing information to the third-party operator was uncooperative in response to questions from the UAPD dispatcher routed through the third party operator.

Police officers present at the Administration Building at 4:52 pm when the threat was dispatched observed nothing to indicate that such an incident was taking place.   Additional officers from UAPD and the Tucson Police Department arrived and were immediately deployed to respond to the reported incident.  Early on, officers on the scene suspected the report was a likely hoax. However, due to the nature of the information, the threat had to be taken seriously.

Following our established protocols, the Administration Building was evacuated so that each floor and office could be searched.  Officers found no gunman during this extensive search and no one interviewed during the evacuation process reported seeing anyone with a weapon.

Status of the Investigation:

The investigation of this incident is continuing with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Lessons Learned
Members of the Campus Emergency Response team have met on multiple occasions since Friday's incident to evaluate our response to this situation, consider feedback from the UA community, and reflect upon lessons learned during the process. Three things are clear:

1. ALL members of the UA community should register for UAlert.   We

communicated during the incident through multiple channels including UAlert text messages, email, social media, the UA website, external news media and face-to-face communications.  We learned that multiple forms of communication are essential and that during this incident email messages were among the slowest forms of communication.  We are addressing this issue to examine ways to improve this; however, we will continue encouraging all members of the UA community to sign up for UA Alert text messages as this medium remains one of the most effective ways to receive urgent information.

2. While our focus during the incident was, appropriately, on evacuating a potentially dangerous building, we could have better communicated how people should exit campus once out of the building. More specifically, we did not clearly communicate whether people whose vehicles were in the 2nd Street Garage had permission to enter the garage to access their vehicles. We will incorporate campus exit strategies into our emergency protocols.

3. We should have delivered the broader campus "All is Clear" message to parents sooner than we did.

Our Continued Commitment to Safety
Effective emergency response requires constant evaluation and UA CERT meets monthly to evaluate and improve all aspects of our emergency preparedness. CERT also conducts regular training and larger scale exercises to help us continually improve and refine our approach to emergency preparedness

Prior to last Friday's event, plans were underway to provide digital signage, noise alerts, and emergency phones in more than 230 classrooms.  Based on feedback from our community, UA CERT is also evaluating the feasibility of having UAlert messages scroll across all active computer screens connected to the UA Wi-WI and other University-wide announcement tools. 

A Reminder About Resources

Threats to personal and community safety are, naturally, upsetting. We want to remind you that the University has counseling services for students, faculty and staff.

UA Life & Work Connections provides support to faculty and staff through individual counseling or consultation.  This team is nationally recognized for the work it does in helping employees return to productivity following trauma and other stressful events.  The team's phone number is 621-2493 and the website.

Counseling and Psychological Services supports students and is located on the third floor of the Campus Health Building. You can contact Counseling and Psychological Services by phone at 621-3334 or visit its website."