Monday, February 25, 2013

5 years after NIU shooting, colleges have boosted security

In 2011, a possibly armed-and-dangerous escaped prisoner was reported to be near the University of Illinois at Springfield campus.

Within minutes, the campus was placed on lockdown. The university sent out text messages, emails and social media alerts to students, faculty and staff, ordering everyone to stay away from the east side of the school grounds, said UIS Police Chief Don Mitchell.

“The response was unbelievable (on) social media more than anything else,” said Derek Schnapp, university spokesman. “We found out people mostly saw it on Facebook. They saw it on Twitter. That’s the world we live in.”

The university wouldn’t have had some of those methods of communication if the incident had happened just a few years earlier — before the mass shootings at Northern Illinois University in 2008.

Soon after, UIS, and many other schools, created a text message alert system, RaveAlert, by which messages can be sent out quickly through multiple formats such as social media sites and cell phones, Schnapp said.

“The point is to notify as many as possible and reaching the broadest net possible on campus,” he said. “We all know most students are connected (through their phones).”

Communication was also important in getting additional law enforcement to the scene, Mitchell said.

The escapee eventually was captured without incident in the woods near the east side of campus.

Campus security was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 24, 2013.

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