BALTIMORE (WUSA9) -- Bogus threats, and the disruptions they cause, are magnified by the high speed flow of information on social media, according to Vernon Herron, Sr. Police Analyst at the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security.
Herron was reacting to WUSA9's questions about a series of high profile threats including a lockdown of courts and a high school in Leonardtown on Thursday, as well as similar lockdowns at American University and Harvard University in December.
"It has changed tremendously," Herron said as he reflected on the need for public safety agencies to keep up with information by adopting social media strategies.
"Government officials need to have some type of social media account and they need to put information out simultaneously with other information that's going out to validate what the facts are," Herron said. "The worst thing you want to have is people sending out rumors or erroneous information that could lead to people being injured."
Herron said the modern social media environment allows bystanders to alert large numbers of people when a threat, evacuation or lockdown is underway. As a result public safety officials and journalists are forced to provide information before the outcome of a full investigation of an incident is complete, Herron said.
The end result can be that attention seeking threat makers can have their actions magnified. However, Herron said there is no alternative because officials have the capability and duty to issue instant warnings in threat situations. In addition an epidemic of active shooter attacks has resulted in public safety officials and school administrators being held to a higher standard for both security and communications in a crisis.