July 24, 2015
INFORMATIONAL MESSAGE FROM ALERT CAROLINA: Update on Notifications for Armed Robberies
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
We write to share updates about the communication problems that came to light Wednesday night with our Alert Carolina emergency notification system regarding two armed robberies on campus.
The two students who reported those related incidents near Aycock Residence Hall shortly before 11 p.m. were not physically injured. They have had full access to campus support services, and we continue to monitor their needs as Summer School winds down.
Part of our notification system worked exactly as planned. The ranking Department of Public Safety officer in the field correctly activated the sirens once officers confirmed there was a significant threat based on the information provided by the victims. All six sirens sounded in a timely manner and broadcast short pre-recorded voice messages about the initial threat and the “all clear.” Officers also quickly secured the crime scene and set up a perimeter in close coordination with Chapel Hill police.
Unfortunately, the additional communications that should promptly follow a siren activation – including a text message to registered cell phones, an email and posts on official University social media accounts – were delayed. That caused confusion about the status of the safety threat and unnecessary concern for people who were on or near campus.
Chancellor Folt has made it clear to us that such a breakdown is unacceptable. We wholeheartedly agree and, on behalf of the University, sincerely apologize to the campus for Wednesday night’s response. An after-action review team met promptly on Thursday morning. They reviewed everything that happened and determined that two human errors, compounded by a glitch in the communications process, caused this problem.
We assure you that the University is taking immediate steps to correct these issues so that such errors do not happen again. We are refining and improving how the appropriate staffs communicate with one another and train to respond to a potential emergency on campus.
Nothing is more important to our University than the safety of our students, faculty and staff. We will have an opportunity to test these improvements as part of regularly scheduled emergency preparedness drills and exercises. On August 26, we will conduct the annual fall semester siren test, which will include sending text messages and emails to the campus community. This is an important opportunity for students, faculty and staff – especially those new to campus – to make sure they are familiar with emergency procedures. You can find a wealth of information, including safety tips and safety-related resources available on campus, at https://alertcarolina.unc.edu/.
Carolina is committed to constantly re-evaluating all procedures related to campus safety based on actual events, knowledge gleaned from training exercises and best practices in higher education and law enforcement. We will keep the campus community informed about these issues and will post updates as new information is available on the Alert Carolina website.
Earlier today, Chapel Hill police, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University issued a joint call for help from our respective communities in identifying suspects in multiple cases of similar robberies, including one reported early this morning at Duke. We strongly encourage anyone who might have information that could help these law enforcement agencies solve these crimes to come forward. For details, refer to https://alertcarolina.unc.edu/.
Chief Jeff McCracken, Director of Public Safety
Matt Fajack, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration
Winston Crisp, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
About Informational Messages: The University sends an Informational Message to inform the campus community about a situation that is not an emergency but is expected to be of significant interest to the campus. An Informational Message is one of three tiers of communication under the University’s revised emergency communications plan. Emergency Warning refers to a siren activation for a significant emergency. And a Timely Warning is issued if there is a continuing danger AND notification will not compromise law enforcement.