Editorial: Commending alert improvement time

Editorial Board

Monday nights at Case Western Reserve University are usually slow and uneventful, bogged down by work and fatigue. But this week, almost everyone on campus suddenly found themselves wide awake thanks to a series of Rave alerts.

At approximately 12:16 a.m., multiple people around campus reported hearing shots fired. While there was initially wild speculation as to where they came from, students on campus were sent texts telling them to either shelter in place or seek shelter immediately. A few minutes later, an email sent similar but more specific instructions, including that doors should be barricaded and lights turned off. The reports of shots fired were not confirmed for another eight minutes, but until the all clear was given at 12:44 a.m., campus remained in total lockdown.

It was an incident that, of course, brought back memories of the shooting that took place the previous semester outside of Phi Delta Theta. However, there was a critical difference that especially differentiated the two.

Instead of a relatively long period of time between the incident and the security alert, the entirety of campus was informed of a potential active shooter only a few minutes after gunshots were heard. While little was known regarding what was actually occurring, everyone was aware of possible danger in the area and knew to remain indoors.

After last semester’s shooting, CWRU Security received criticism for what was seen as an inadequate response. The initial report of shots fired after the incident came much too late, and little information was given regarding where they had been heard. After the fact, it was revealed that one of the assailants had exchanged fire with University Circle Police near Uptown. A Facebook Live session with University President Barbara Snyder did indicate CWRU wished to implement greater security measures across campus, but also disclosed a number of then-unknown inadequacies, such as the existence of only four Safe Rides at the time.

The state of these improvements took a small hit in legitimacy in early January, when an email detailed a failure to alert campus to reports of shots fired. In it, Frank Demes, executive director of Public Safety, both apologized and ensured that measures would be taken to prevent another lack of notification.

Given the rapidness of Monday’s response, it is safe to say CWRU has learned from its past errors. An email the following morning from CWRU Police listed the first reports of shots fired coming at 12:13 a.m., which meant that an alert to all of campus was sent a mere minutes later. This is a dramatic improvement over the close to 40-minute gap between incident and Rave alert during the shooting of the previous semester. While the university stressed accuracy of information as its reason for a delay in informing students last November, it is safe to say that the near-immediate decision to send an alert was much preferred.

But while the infrastructure for student security is certainly stronger, there could still be minor improvements when it comes to presentation and quantity of information given to students.

The Rave messages received were highly ambiguous and startled many around campus. It was unclear what the degree of danger was, or what was causing it. The follow-up email only exacerbated concerns, as it made whatever might be occurring seem more anomalous. A series of clarifying messages were sent later, but there was a period of time that was anxiety-inducing for many, and the exact location of the incident was not given until the next morning. In the future, it would be nice to get pieces of information that might cut down on panic.

However, it can still be said that the university handled reporting of the situation much better than in the past. Even though there appears to have been no present danger, there could have been many more problems had students been roaming around unaware of a potential safety hazard.

Altogether, it’s a step in the right direction and will hopefully lead us toward being an even safer, more prepared campus.