October 3, 2012 10:38 am
Updated: June 14, 2013 9:22 am

Review of U of A’s response to HUB mall shooting released

Scene of the HUB mall shooting, June 15, 2012

Supplied, Jonathan Fang

EDMONTON – Two reports out of the University of Alberta suggest the University’s response to the June 15th HUB mall shooting was “timely” and “appropriate”.

The reports were penned by the University’s Vice President of Risk Management Services, and looked at how the University handled the initial threat and the process of notifying students.

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When Travis Baumgartner allegedly killed three co-workers and injured another G4S employee in the early hours of that morning, many students felt they should have been notified about the emergency sooner.

Communication and notification was a huge concern among a lot of students on campus at the time. The shooting occurred just after midnight, and students immediately turned to social media; trying to get answers. Several started asking questions and sending messages on Twitter; trying to find information about what was going on around them. Many students said they should have been notified by the University as soon as the incident happened, and questioned why the emergency alert email system was not used earlier.

Sophie Nam was in HUB mall, studying with a friend, when the shooting happened.

“I received an email, as a text message, the next day notifying us that HUB Mall will be closed. But, we didn’t receive anything about the actual incident or any dangers, nothing saying on that night, don’t enter HUB or don’t come to HUB,” she said adding, “It would have been nice, at that time, if they would have sent out a mass email letting students know not to come back to campus.”

After talking to some of her fellow students about the night of June 15th, Nam says a lot of them actually learned about the incident through the information she was posting on her personal facebook page.

“It makes me wonder how students find out about incidents like this through facebook, before the University lets us know.”

University officials are defending their decisions, saying notifying students of the emergency immediately after it happened would have only alerted more to the campus, when the threat was no longer present.

“It was an event that took place very quickly and the danger associated with that event actually dissipated very rapidly, because the armoured car left the campus and left the scene,” explained Martin Ferguson-Pell, Acting Provost.

“The crowd at the scene was quite small in the time that it had occurred and the consideration was made that if an emergency notification was sent, that would attract people to the site and increase the burden on police to do crowd control and take away from focusing on the crime that had occurred,” added Adam Conway, Manager, Office of Emergency Management.

The reports suggest the U of A’s emergency response was effective. However, it also includes 19 recommendations on ways the University can improve the system.

One of those recommendations is for Protective Services to create a new protocol where emergency notifications can be sent without removing employees from the field. The report’s author points out that the Protective Services duty officer was assisting police and would have had to leave the scene to write and issue that emergency message. The author also suggests the U of A should use social media to communicate more, since the June 15th emergency showed the value of sites like Twitter and Facebook in informing students.

The report reads in part, “University staff and students were generally supportive of the University’s handling of this incident but did express concern about the amount and speed of information shared by the institution.”

“As the normal course following the activation of its Crisis management Team, a full debrief was undertaken focusing on an assessment of the operations and processes associated with the emergency response. The review and subsequent report produced eight recommendations for enhancements to the CMT (Crisis Management Team).”

“In light of the concerns regarding the communications associated with the incident, a second review was undertaken. The review of the communications process produced a further 11 recommendations.”

A third party is now working on a report about how the University interacted with Edmonton police during this emergency. Details on that report are expected later this year.

You can read the full report and recommendations below.
U of A: Emergency Response Recommendations

With files from Laurel Clark.

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