UNCW trying to figure out how emergency system failed


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It took more than two hours for students and staff at UNCW to find out about a shooting near campus Friday. The university has acknowledged that its response to the gunman and a search for him on and around campus was unacceptable. Now the school is trying to move past the communication lapse by finding out what went wrong and how to make things better.

Incidents like the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting made universities more aware about the way they communicate with students during an emergency. Many schools now use e-mail, text messages, social media and even sirens to alert their campus of a potential danger. Friday, though, many students were unaware that police were on the hunt for Reginald Gagnier after he reportedly shot a man at the Seahawk Square Apartments.

- Advertisement -

UNCW Police Chief David Donaldson soon ordered staff to alert the university by phone, text and e-mail. The only thing sent out was an e-mail more than two hours after the incident.

“We always go back and take a hard look. What did we do right? What did we do wrong? Are there areas we can improve upon even if everything was done correctly?” UNCW spokeswoman Cindy Lawson said. “Clearly that was not the case on Friday, and we’re in the process right now of taking a look at what happened and why it happened and what action steps we need to take to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

The university does not know where the failure in communication happened, but it hopes it can find the answer once a review of the incident is completed.

Chief Donaldson was unavailable for an on-camera interview Tuesday, but he says his department is in the process of reviewing the timeline of events. He is also looking at just what information was exchanged among his department, the university and the Wilmington Police Department.

Students say what little alert they did get friday was not timely.

“If we had to hurry up and get indoors, two hours later it’s really not going to be effective,” student Emma Lee said.

The university does not have a timeframe on when its review of the communication failure may be done, but it says it is working as quickly as possible to identify and solve the problem.