On April 16, 2007 the Virginia Tech University experienced one of the worst school massacres in North American history, when Seung-Hui Cho, a student at Virginia Tech, killed 32 students and staff and left an additional 17 wounded. Unfortunately, much of the carnage perpetrated by Cho, could have been prevented had the university and campus security notified the student body sooner. This is because the attacks on Virginia Tech were carried out in two stages. At 9:24 am, Cho murdered two students in Virginia Tech’s residence hall and two hours and twenty minutes later Cho killed another 30 people. Consequently, after the first two murders, the university waited a full two hours before employing their Emergency Notification System in order to alert students of the shooting that had just occurred. This emergency notification was sent too late, as 20 minutes later, 30 more students were killed. Furthermore, the content of the emergency notification that was sent out to students lacked clarity and did not emphasize the urgency of the situation. Specifically the message sent out to students only stated that there had been a shooting and did not specify that those shot were murdered and that the killer had not been identified.
As a result of the incompetence of the Virginia Tech’s administration, which failed to prevent or mitigate the severity of this attack, they were forced to pay the victims’ families $3.7 million in a lawsuit settlement. Furthermore, these financial costs are only a fraction of the total amount spent by Virginia Tech on improved security and renovations, counselling services, and a public relations campaign. The total financial cost, according to the Washington Post, amounted to $42.8 million. Obviously, the financial cost cannot be compared to the human cost of this tragedy and the suffering and destruction of human life that occurred. However, it is important to factor all the costs related to this type of attack when universities implement risk management strategies in order to reduce the chances of this type of tragedy from occurring on their campuses.
Consequently, while Virginia Tech has spent millions in an attempt to provide some form of compensation for the victims and their families and improve campus security so that this type of attack does not happen again, no amount of money can be enough to compensate for the loss of life and repair Virginia Tech’s damaged public image. The loss of reputation that Virginia Tech suffered as a result of the shooting cannot be gauged through simple utilitarian calculations. Specifically, Virginia Tech is equated, in the eyes of many, with feelings of danger and fear and thus the massacre has immeasurably damaged the Virginia Tech public image. An example of how deeply the Virginia Tech reputation has been damaged is the type of content that surfaces on Google related to Virginia Tech. Specifically, when a user searches for Virginia Tech, the Wikipedia entry of the massacre is one of the first few links. This of course is just one of the thousands of articles online which give the perception that Virginia Tech is dangerous. If further research is conducted, it becomes clear that not only are these damaging articles prominently surfacing when people search for Virginia Tech online, but that hundreds of thousands of people every month are searching on Google for information related to the Virginia Tech massacre. For example, Google’s keyword tool which estimates monthly traffic volumes for a given search query shows that 135,000 people search for the term “Virginia Tech shooting” each month.
Most universities which have not had a massacre on campus of this scale and do not have this type of damaging content online nor do they have to worry about people searching for information about a terrible event in its history. Thus, Virginia Tech’s damaged reputation, the severe financial loss and most importantly the destruction of human life should be motivators to any school administrator to implement effective risk management strategies in order to prevent an attack like this from occurring on their campuses. When developing optimal risk management strategies that can reduce violent attacks on campus, it is important that universities employ the most effective security protocols and integrate cutting-edge technology into their Emergency Mass Notification Systems. Having both protocols that allow campus security staff to completely respond to emergencies and technology which allows for complex interactions between students, staff and security, can prevent another Virginia Tech-like attack from occurring.
Our company, Guardly, is deeply aware of these challenges that schools face and has developed its Safe Campus program to deliver an end-to-end solution for students and campus police to broadcast, respond and manage, and resolve emergencies quickly and efficiently on campus. Guardly is a mobile application which effectively turns your student’s smartphone into an emergency blue light phone. Using Guardly on your campus allows your students to immediately notify your campus security services and a custom group of contacts should an emergency occur. For example, in the instance of a Virginia Tech-like attack on campus, students and staff using Guardly’s GPS and location-aware technology can immediately notify campus police and a custom group of contacts with their exact location. Further, students or staff who experience an emergency can communicate with campus police and their contacts by phone call and secure instant messaging, allowing what could be dangerous situations to be easily conveyed. Using Guardly on campus can both improve the response time of first-responders and increase the quality of communication between students, staff and security personnel during these emergencies. Guardly Safe Campus can assist in mitigating the impact of an attack against human life on campus, helping to reduce both the human and financial costs which come as a result of such horrific attacks.
Guardly provides mobile safety solutions for reporting and managing enterprise and public safety emergencies.Our safety apps act as personal emergency phones that transmit real-time indoor/GPS location, and provides two-way communication with private security, 911 authorities and safety groups using our real-time platform for emergency incident monitoring, management, communication and response.
- Read our customer campus safety study showing how Guardly helped improve emergency response times by 44% at a school.
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