Staff Editorial: More information in emergency response

When it comes to crime alerts, more information is beneficial to both students and the University.

This was evident Monday when two suspects were arrested near the Foggy Bottom Metro. Police cars swarmed the I Street Mall and rumors began to fly that there was a shooting just off campus.

The University did the right thing by attempting to notify the student body via e-mail when it realized that there was a potential threat to students on campus. While a technology failure led the crime alert notification to be delayed, the University should have used their modes of communication quicker and more effectively.

University police records are private and administrators declined to say exactly when they were first notified of a possible threat, but it was likely just after 11 p.m.

It was not until shortly after midnight that the University sent out Twitter and Facebook messages about the incident.

But students had begun to worry before the University’s social media updates went online. When an event like this happens on campus and it is being resolved, it might seem like there is no reason to incite false worry in the student body by telling them about what happened. But in today’s viral environment, student panic can escalate quickly.

Sometimes there is just as much value in telling people that there is nothing to fear, as there is in telling them the opposite. And while not everyone uses social media and might not have benefited from these updates, the University should still have been even quicker to tell the student body that the problem was resolved.

The University is not legally obligated to tell students about a resolved threat. But in a case like Monday night’s, in which students see a great deal of drama unfolding, but are unsure of its significance, it would be beneficial for the University to tell students more information than required about the situation.

The tweet, Facebook post and delayed crime alert should have provided students with more background information about the incidents around campus. While they did tell students that the suspects had been arrested, these notifications provided little clarity, and therefore less comfort, on what unfolded earlier in the night.

This need for additional information through social media is even more critical on a night when information regarding the shootings was already delayed.

This event also amplifies the importance of having as many avenues of communication between the University and students as possible. The text message alert system the University is working to establish will help reduce the lack of understanding between students and the University in cases such as Monday night’s.

And if a similar incident occurs, the University shouldn’t hesitate to use the system to notify students that the campus is safe again.

GW students living on Foggy Bottom know what they are getting themselves into. A city school will see skirmishes like these from time to time. But when they occur, the University should be there to quickly address the issue, and if it’s resolved, to provide that vital information as well.

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