Virginia Tech: A Decade Later

It's been 10 years since the Virginia Tech shooting, where 32 people died in a single gunman attack on the school. Campus Safety magazine took a look at the effect that the shooting had on emergency preparedness in schools in the last decade. "The anniversary should be about honoring the victims and survivors of the attack, but it also presents an opportunity to examine changes in the emergency management community since that fateful day," writes Zach Winn. "Reviewing how far campus security has come in the past decade can be useful to ensure something like the Virginia Tech shooting never happens again."

There were several existing security measures at the school, such as electronic card readers for dormitories, an email alert system, a website and a broadcast phone system, and also vulnerabilities, such as a lack of electronic controls in some buildings, non-locking classrooms and no video surveillance, writes Winn. Measures in process included an emergency messaging system and plans for a director of emergency management staff position, neither of which were active during the time of the shooting.

There was an existing emergency response plan in place, but, according to Winn, it "did not include provisions specific for an active shooter scenario and did not reference preventive measures like threat assessment teams."

The article, which describes the day of the shooting as it unfolded, as well as its ongoing effects on emergency management and Virginia Tech itself, also includes the following recommended actions from the governor's review panel relating to university emergency preparedness and alerts included:

  • Universities should conduct threat assessments before deciding on the appropriate level of security for their campus
  • University threat assessment teams should include law enforcement, human resources, student and academic affairs, legal counsel and mental health services
  • Students, faculty and staff members should undergo annual emergency preparedness, response and notification training
  • Emergency communications systems must have multiple means of sharing information
  • Campus police and administration officials should have the ability to send emergency messages.