Misleading Siren Quiet; Students Plan Forum After False Emergency

Misleading Siren Quiet;

Students Plan Forum

After False Emergency

The SUNY Oneonta campus was the scene of a shooting threat that turned out to be a hoax.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – During the shooting threat that put SUNY Oneonta under a “shelter in place” order for over an hour Wednesday, Oct. 2, some students say they had to take charge in
the classroom.

“I had students tell me their teachers either didn’t know what to do or didn’t take the order seriously,” said Timothy Nolan, SUNY Student Association president. “Many of (his fellow students) have gone through this training, so they had to lock the door, turn off the lights and lower the blinds.”

Now, the Student Association will host a public forum to address the concerns of students, faculty and community members. “I want to create an environment where people can ask questions and give feedback,” said Nolan. “We want to try and create a setting where we can all move on and better prepare as a community.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 2, Campus Police issued the “shelter in place” order after a mental health crisis hotline in New York City alerted shared a chat message, purportedly from a female student who planned to shoot up the campus.

The threat was soon discovered to be a hoax – the phone had been hacked. When police located her, she was working with the college’s Information Technology Services to get it fixed. She was not placed under arrest and no charges were filed.

“All signs point to this student being the victim of a cyber-crime,” said Campus Police Chief Jennifer Fila.

No suspects have been identified, and city Police Chief Doug Brenner believes that the student may have been a victim of a phishing scam, which allowed the suspect access to her phone.
“These cases are difficult,” he said. “You have to look for IP addresses, and sometimes, those go into foreign countries.”

But now, the campus is assessing how they can better respond to threats. “We were fortunate to be able to identify problems in the wake of a situation where no one was injured,” said Hal Legg, SUNY chief communication & marketing officer.

On Friday, Oct. 4, college President Barbara Jean Morris announced that the campus would no longer use the siren to signify “All Clear,” which had caused uncertainty Wednesday.
“It’s fair to say that many members of our campus community may not know what to do when they hear the siren,” said Legg.

The siren has three settings, each outlined in the emergency response guidelines given to students. “The first, a five-second tone, is a test,” said Legg. “The second, a three-minute tone, is an alarm. The third, a one-minute tone is the all clear. But if they don’t understand it, it’s not worth using.”

Many of the doors on campus don’t lock, Legg said, and only some classrooms have the automatic lockdown button installed. According to Legg, Lachlan Squair, Chief of Facilities and Safety, will soon begin looking at what it would take to upgrade the buildings, possibly accelerating the planned timetable.

Additionally, the NY-Alerts system that students can sign up for in case of emergency failed to deliver messages to all students. “We’re looking into why that didn’t work the way it had in previous test scenarios,” said Legg.

Faculty members were not required to undergo active shooter training, although many did when it was offered last April. “We will be offering it again,” said Legg.

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