Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=154866
Story Retrieval Date: 5/19/2013 7:33:34 PM CST
When police heard Wednesday about a man carrying a gun seen inside a building on Northwestern’s Chicago campus the school got the chance to put its newalert system to the test.
Thousands of emergency text messages, automated voice messages and e-mails alerted staff and students shortly before 10:30 a.m. when the building at 375 E. Chicago Ave. was put on lockdown.
Typical mass electronic messages tend to clog at transfer points, slowing delivery. The new bulk mail system installed Jan. 18 allows thousands of e-mails to be sent almost at once. The emergency voice message and text message systems were installed about a year after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting in which a gunman killed 32 people before killing himself.
The suspect was described to police as a brown-haired, white male in his 20s wearing blue jeans, a black coat and a black button-up shirt.
Heavily armed Northwestern and Chicago Police searched the building for several hours. Students and staff locked themselves in classrooms and the library. New messages shortly after 1 p.m. said the building was no longer locked down and that the law school would still hold classes.
A Northwestern spokesperson referred calls to a statement on Northwestern’s Web site. The statement read in part, “An intensive search of the buildings on the Chicago campus was conducted but no one matching the description of the man reported with a gun was found.”
“At first people were concerned,” said Robert Peachey, a second-year law student, of his classmate’s reaction to the incident. “But I think after about 15 or 20 minutes, people were more skeptical about it.”
Students got instant alerts, updating them on the status of the investigation. Some called friends and family. Some updated their Facebook status and surfed the Web, Peachey said.
“After we went into the library, we knew we were safe,” said a law school student who did not want to be named. “We talked about school, normal stuff.”
The student also praised the university’s emergency message response, saying it made her feel safer to know what was happening.