|University of Texas Shooting Incident
||[Sep. 28th, 2010|01:15 pm]
Just after 8 am this morning, a gunman started popping off AK47 rounds on the UT campus. An hour later, he was dead (self-inflicted gunshot wound) , the campus was in lockdown, and law enforcement officers were looking for a possible second shooter. By noon, the all-clear had been sounded; students had been evacuated from locked-down buildings, and it was clear that there'd been no second shooter. (The blog link is to the Austin American-Statesman, and the blog updates as new data come in.) No one else was shot. There were no incident-related injuries.
This is not the first shooting incident at the University of Texas--the famous, or infamous, one being the Tower shootings in 1966. But UT has learned--not just from that, but from other school/university incidents. In August, local law enforcement held a joint training exercise for the university and city police and other agencies that might get involved...the second of the summer. As a result of the thought and training, at least four (maybe five--I lost track) agencies arrived fast, acted fast, and with communication and command that the Austin police chief called "seamless cooperation," penned the shooter into the 6th floor of the Perry-Castaneda Library where he shot himself.
I was following this on Twitter after a friend alerted me to the situation--Twitter has great immediacy but also great redundancy on things like this--and like most people kept expecting to hear about additional casualties. There weren't any but the shooter himself. That in itself is remarkable. We don't expect--after seeing on TV all the confusion that's occurred at other shooting incidents at schools--emergency plans to actually work like this. We expect delays, confusion, agencies that don't have a shared radio frequency, turf squabbles, students who have no idea there's a shooter on campus, etc.
UT is my second university--it's where I got my second degree, and I can't say that I was at all impressed by its emergency planning in the early '70s. But they've made intelligent changes, using technology as it develops. Their alerts to students include loudspeakers, sirens, text messaging and email, for instance. Most students interviewed said they'd received at least some critical information (sirens only tell you something is wrong, not what.) Whoever (individual or committee) designed their emergency response system obviously did something--more than one something--right. It still squicks me to see heavily armed men in black herding students, but at least it was being done calmly, without screaming and adding to the stress (compare Columbine.) Shuttle buses had been corraled to take evacuated students to apartment complexes, etc. away from campus.
If the gunman's first shots had in fact killed or injured people, that would certainly have increased the chaos and adrenalin level of all concerned...but until law enforcement was sure that there weren't more shooters, it still wasn't a simple or easy thing to handle.
I'm sure that in the aftermath, there will be mistakes to point out...but not many in the response effort. I've watched a fair number of these things now--this was clearly a far more controlled, planned response with people who knew what they were supposed to be doing and went at it without hysteria. And any university that doesn't yet have a similar plan in place...about time to talked to UTexas and found out how to do it.