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Shooting near Ross Hall, delayed Bulldog Alert explained

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BY LORIEN MACENULTY

Late in February, shots were fired outside of Ross Hall late February. About two dozen concerned Drake students made phone calls to Drake Public Safety. 16 minutes later, students received a Bulldog Alert.

These alerts are especially important during Drake Relays. Crowds not only make Relays a security risk, but also make communication more difficult. Director of DPS Scott Law said that the threat can originate off-campus and head towards campus or sometimes the threat originates on campus.

DPS and the Des Moines Police Department officers strategically roam around campus looking for any potential threat.

Law is immediately contacted when a potentially compromising situation arises. He and the dispatcher that reports the event make a quick decision on whether or not alerting students, faculty and anyone else signed-up for the alerts is necessary.

“We have to do a careful balancing act, because if we put out Bulldog Alerts all the time for everything it becomes white noise,” Law said. “Then people are like, ‘Well, do we pay attention to this? It’s just another Bulldog Alert. It’s not important.'”

It is this “boy who cried wolf” conundrum that keeps Law from sending out unnecessary or irrelevant information. As a general rule, Law said three pieces of information about the situation are enough to justify a “cry.”

“We are very careful to not send out an alert if there’s not a real threat,” Law said.

Fawad Baig, a third-year pharmacy student, said that he felt DPS is doing well in this regard.

“I don’t feel like we get (Bulldog Alerts) too often, especially this semester,” Baig said.

When the decision to send out an alert is made, time becomes a major priority. The dispatcher drafts an email relaying the situation. Approximately 50 percent of these drafts are made from filed templates. The other 50 percent are written as the situation demands. Law says it should take three to four minutes to complete and send an alert.

“There’s no national rule about how quickly we have to get it out,” Law said. “But if you think about it, if we have an emergency that’s encroaching upon campus, every minute we wait are seconds (the) risk could be closer to the campus and place students at risk.”

Law said that DPS has tried to remain faithful to the time frame, minus one exception. That was in February, when DPS took 16 minutes to send out an alert after the shooting near Ross Hall.

“Thankfully, that incident was something that happened and the (offenders) kept going,” Law said. “But if it was something that was encroaching on the campus, that’s far too long.”

Public Safety reevaluated and changed its procedure to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Law now has the ability to dispatch the alert himself from wherever he is. The final Bulldog Alert consists of an email, phone call and text messages sent to all students and faculty.

Taylor Eisenhauer, a senior magazine major at Drake, finds that getting an alert across all three mediums can be excessive.

“My only problem with (Bulldog Alerts) is that I get called, texted and emailed,” Eisenhauer said. “I tried to go make it so that I didn’t, but I still get all of them. If I got maybe just the text, it would be fine. But it’s kind of excessive when I’m getting them all across the board.”

Amidst the fun and fanfare of Drake Relays, it can be important to keep a lookout for any Bulldog Alerts from DPS.

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