Colleges Take a Second Look at their Crisis Plans

April 18, 2007 -- Posted at 7:15 a.m. CST

Jonesboro, AR --  The Virginia Tech Massacre that left 33 people dead, including the killer was the deadliest shooting incident in history. Two students found dead in a dorm and then some two hours later, gunman Cho Seung-Hui killed 30 people before turning the gun on himself. So why weren't students informed earlier? Some students bitterly complained they got no warning from the university until an e-mail that arrived more than two hours after the first shots rang out.

Questions arise about how police reacted to the first shooting at the dorm, Virginia Tech University President Charles Steger said police believed it to be "a domestic fight, perhaps a murder-suicide" contained to one dorm room.

So what's the best way to inform students of a crisis? Arkansas State University said they updated and made improvements to their disaster plans last year. Improvements including more communication with Residence Advisors, mass emailing and even a texting plan to faculty and residence cell phones.

"Although we made the adjustments last year, we still looked at our crisis plan, I think everyone did. We are confident in our plan and we are still looking to see what other improvements can be made."

What about the smaller colleges in the area? They may not need such extensive equipment when they have less than 1,000 students and faculty.

Brett Cooper with Williams Baptist College said their residence hall staff are trained to reach students quickly. They have a calling network established throughout the offices and dorms, and they make constant updates on their web sites along with mass emails to all students.

"We are planning to review our procedures in light of the Virginia Tech Tragedy and make any necessary adjustments. It's difficult to plan and prepare for acts which are so random in nature, but Williams Baptist want to assure that it has the guidelines in place to respond to any crisis which may develop."

Bob Qualls with Lyon College said with only 500 total students and about 350-400 of them living on campus, it's easier to reach their students.

"We alert our students through direct communication. We are able to contact all of our Residence Hall directors through phone calls and our students by email. "

Before the shootings at Virginia Tech, Lyon College had been looking into the possibility of making their communication process more efficient. They have been looking into cell phones and a mass text messaging system for their students.