A School Shooting, a Failed Fast-Response System, and JuicyCampus.com
Last night at about 9:50 pm PST, 7-8 gunshots rang out across the campus of my school, LMU. Within a half hour, I could see half a dozen LAPD cars 200 yards outside of my window with a helicopter circling over my building. My roommates and I wondered what exactly was going on.
I, personally, did not hear the gunshots. My roommates did. LMU was hosting a basketball game between two rival high schools, Westchester High and Fairfax High. A young guy, aged 15, was shot after the game directly off campus. The location of the shooting happened to be 200 yards outside of my bedroom window. Technically the shooting didn’t happen on campus and the technically LMU students weren’t involved, but the geographic proximity to me was close enough and guns bullets don’t only kill fellow students.
In response to what happened in Virginia last April, LMU had established a fast-response system that would send out text messages and recorded voice messages to every student registered for the service. Many other universities have done the same, including Boston University and Arizona State (thanks readers!).
But these systems didn’t work as advertised.
Last night’s shooting occurred around 9:50 pm, I did not receive a phone call until 12:31 am. We didn’t have the same problem as Arizona State’s overflow problem (we’re a mere 6,000 students or so), we had laziness of administration. As commenter jrock pointed out, the Virginia Tech massacre lasted all of 9 minutes. More people could have been injured or killed. So while I was in the dark last night for 2.5 hours, which news source did I turn to? Local news stations decided Britney being released from the hospital was more important as an LAPD helicopter circled over my building.
I turned to a website we don’t often praise, JuicyCampus.com. JuicyCampus is LMU’s Twitter. It’s a knee-jerk site to visit and communicate what’s going on around campus. Usually the information being communicated is some form of racism or libel. Last night though, JuicyCampus’ slow servers eventually let me know the buzz around campus: a shooting. The topic was labeled “SHOOTING AT BACKGATES RITE NOW!!!”
I don’t like JuicyCampus, but it did (potentially) save a life last night. The LMU administration dropped the ball. All students should have stayed in doors or in class. Gunshots should mean everyone stays put and locks down. I would have at least like the peace of mind to know whether or not the shooter was still at large.
So what can be done in the future? JuicyCampus.com is great, but it isn’t necessarily an open system. And it’s slow. These systems that our schools shelled out thousands for obviously aren’t working. I suggest Twitter or Mozes as a means of campus-wide mass communication. These two services each handle thousands of requests per day. I’m sure they could accommodate one measly campus inside Los Angeles.
Hopefully a failure like this doesn’t happen again…
Has anyone else experienced shortcomings with emergency response systems? Let us know in the comments!