Verify: What is Howard U.'s emergency situation protocol?

The scare at Howard University Tuesday afternoon led to confusion online as many were left uncertain about the active shooter claim and what was happening on campus.

QUESTION:

What is the standard emergency protocol at Howard University?

ANSWER:

To alert the community upon confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation.

SOURCES:

Howard University Interim Chief of Police Alonzo Joy

Howard University’s Vice President & Chief Communications Officer Crystal Brown

PROCESS:

The scare at Howard University Tuesday afternoon led to confusion online as many were left uncertain about the active shooter claim and what was happening on campus.

Here’s a timeline of how the confusion unfolded:

12:13-12:20 p.m.—People began tweeting that shots were fired

12:21 p.m.—D.C. Police tweeted they were investigating

12:43 p.m.—Howard U. said they were anonymously notified of a potential shooter

About 2 p.m.—D.C. Police and Howard announced an all-clear, lifting the lockdown

People were left wondering why the university took so long to confirm the investigation, while students were still walking around campus.

So, what is the standard emergency protocol at Howard University?

WUSA9’s Verify researchers contacted the university and received the following statement from Interim Chief of Police Alonzo Joy:

“We alert our community with accurate and timely information as soon as it is available. 

Earlier today, our focus and number one priority was to provide guidance with a sense of urgency to help ensure all members of our community were safe. Throughout the incident, the University communicated several times via social media and emergency alerts from Department of Public Safety. 

As is the case with most institutions, we follow a protocol of immediately notifying our campus community upon confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation.  This is the same protocol we followed today.  I issued an alert to the community as soon as I learned of the anonymous calls made to Metropolitan Police Department.  We took these threats very seriously and acted accordingly.”

During Tuesday’s news conference, HU’s president Wayne Frederick addressed how students were informed about what was happening on campus.

“Over the course of about a two-hour period, we sent out about five messages to the campus and I think that we were doing the best we could with the limited information we had while we were actively investigating as the calls were coming in. The first priority we have is to assure people that they are safe and the second thing is we certainly don’t want to miscommunicate as well, so I felt that we did communicate what we could.”

The university’s chief communications officer, Crystal Brown, confirmed that every member of the Howard community is automatically enrolled in their alert system if they are an active member of faculty, staff, or a student. They get alerts from the Department of Public Safety.

As for why it took Howard University about 20 minutes to notify students after police tweeted about the incident remains unknown, but Brown told WUSA9 she’s working to get answers.

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