Fast, effective, varied communications followed shooting

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Fast, effective, varied communications followed shooting

California State University, Fresno spread word of a fatal shooting near the campus in several ways to be certain students, faculty, staff, media and the general public were alerted to the emergency that began late Monday, May 7.

The university’s main Web site for campus news, www.FresnoStateNews.com, was the primary information stream after the shooting as Fresno Police conducted an investigation and University Police Department ensured that the campus was safe. The first alert on FresnoStateNews.com was posted at 2:50 a.m. Tuesday, May 8, and there were updates throughout the morning until police made an arrest.

FresnoStateNews.com was visited by 19,448 individuals on Tuesday. They conducted 633,738 page views. On a typical day, the site is visited by 2,800-4,000 individuals.

The 21,000-plus students registered this semester received e-mail messages (the first at 4:35 a.m.) and a faculty-staff e-mail alert system handled messages to more than 3,500 individuals beginning at 4:46 a.m. and continuing through 12:33 p.m. Information also was posted to the main campus Web site, http://www.csufresno.edu.

Alerts were broadcast on the campus emergency radio (1040 AM). E-mails were sent to advisers to the fraternities and sororities near Fresno State and several internal e-mail and phone tree alert systems were activated by divisions within the university to get news to staff and faculty members.

Fresno State’s Office of Communications stayed in contact with news media throughout the 13 hours from the shooting until the announcement of an arrest. “We view the media as an important partner in getting our messages to the public,” said Mark Aydelotte, associate vice president for communications.

Aydelotte added that he was pleased with the his team’s handling of the situation, which also included fielding requests from media as far away as Argentina and Japan and answering scores of calls to the main campus telephone number. Many calls were from parents who heard about the shooting and weren’t able to contact their son or daughter or wanted to get additional information.

“Our preliminary assessment is that our emergency communications plan worked very well,” said Mark Aydelotte, the university’s associate vice president for communications.

“We will be evaluating our communication process, which we do after every major event affecting the campus, but we believe that our electronic messages, Web postings and extensive media contacts were effective.”

Not all reaction was favorable. University Communications received approximately 30 calls from people complaining about the campus remaining open or suggesting that it should have been closed.

The campus stayed open, though, because Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer told Fresno State President John D. Welty that he did not believe the campus was in danger.

There was praise for the flow of information, too. One man, who had been critical of the alert procedure after an earlier incident on campus, e-mailed his approval of the communications to students following the Monday night tragedy.

A veteran newsman’s e-mail offered this assessment: “Outstanding notification blitz this morning. You responded well to a serious situation.”

Although there are early indications the university’s communications following Monday’s shooting were effective, Fresno State leaders continue to look for better, faster ways to spread word of an emergency.

For several months, Fresno State has been examining cell phone-based text or voice message systems offered by private vendors. “The university is moving forward with a decision on a system,” Aydelotte said.

To view Fresno Police Department press conference, see link:

www.fresno.gov/Government/DepartmentDirectory/Police/NewsMedia/default.htm

Background on www.FresnoStateNews.com