Fear and confusion.
That’s how two students described their feelings on March 25 when a shooter-on-campus alarm was erroneously issued instead of a tornado warning alarm that should have gone out in all buildings.
Students in Professor Gwin Faulconer-Lippert’s advertising class hunkered down in room 1D4 in the Arts and Humanities area and took cover after the alarm came across digital feeds across the campus, including one located right outside the classroom door.
Public Relations major Lisa Lasater was one of those students.
“It was confusing because we were under a severe weather watch and then the alarm for shooter on campus, but then I’m like, ‘well shooters on campus don’t really have a particular time’ so we followed what the screens told us to do.”
In the event of an armed intruder, people are advised to shelter where they are. For tornadoes, they are asked to move to safer areas.
Psychology major Sarah Powell said she also was confused.
“I was a little bit scared, but mostly confused,” she said. “Was it really going on? We were just trying to stay as safe as possible.”
Lasater gave credit to Faulconer-Lippert for staying professional and calm during the alarm.
“She went to the door and there were students out there, so she grabbed them and pulled them in, shut the door, turned off the lights, and we all got to the other side of the room. All our phones were turned off and silent.
“She pulled at least 10 students in,” she said. “She was very professional about it and how she handled it, and everyone remained calm during the whole thing.”
Powell said, after about five minutes, the professor tried calling security and couldn’t get through.
“ … So she called and got through to the operator. She was asking ‘is there really a shooter on campus because we were under the impression there was a tornado.’”
Powell said it was then people in the class started to look at their phones and see there actually was a tornado warning so they opened the classroom door.
“There was an officer walking around with a megaphone, saying there was a tornado and no shooter on campus, and rounding everyone up to get to shelter,” she said.
“It could have been the shooter, so [Faulconer-Lippert] clarified that there was no shooter before opening the door.”
Lasater she she received a text from a friend who works in Recreation and Fitness, saying that area also received the wrong warning.
“He said they went into some closet for safety.”
Lasater said she blames no one for the confusion.
“They’re both tragic events. It’s just human error.”
The shelter in place alarm also went off in the Keith Leftwich Memorial Library.
A library employee who requested her name not be used, said she was aware of the potential for severe weather that evening so when the shelter in place alarm went off, she made the “executive decision” to instruct people to follow the procedures for severe weather instead.
“ … I just made a personal judgment that it made more sense that it was a severe weather situation than an active shooter one.”
However, she said, some people still were trying to follow the shelter in place procedures so the situation was somewhat confusing.
She said outside sirens started sounding before the Library received any notifications from the college about the weather.
Shortly after the shelter in place alarm went off, the employee said, the campus tornado alert then went off, which confirmed her first instinct.
Although the multiple alarms did cause confusion, the employee said, everyone remained calm.
“People actually were moving steadily and not crazy or anything. …
“Everybody was calm and quiet, and just waiting it out until the all-clear.”
Although getting the wrong message was disconcerting and made the employee a bit wound-up, she said she believes everything worked out.
She said OCCC typically does a good job with drills and alarms.
“… When you think about how many people there are here and the turnover — every year, there’s so many new students again — you could say that, in general, we do pretty well with all the drills … .”
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