Valley Staff Play Key Role in E.M.S. Failure During Lockdown

The failure of the Blackboard Connect campus alert system on November 8, 2016 was the result of Valley College user error.

By Courtney Meloche and Don Harward, staff writers

During the November lock down of the Valley College campus, not everyone received the emergency messages, and the fault was not with Blackboard Connect, but a campus error.

“That’s on us,” said Valley President Erika Endrijonas.

The school was placed on lockdown on Tuesday evening, Nov. 8 after 911 dispatch received multiple calls from people reporting they had heard gunshots near campus.

It is the responsibility of school officials to alert Blackboard of an emergency; Blackboard Connect then alerts students, faculty and staff through text messages, email and voicemail.

However, Valley did not properly inform Blackboard of the emergency. Public relations manager Jennifer Borucki missed a group containing some members of the faculty.

Endrijonas said said the problem has been resolved by creating a super-group message template  in which everyone is included.

The campus was placed on lockdown around 7 p.m. with 20 patrol cars on campus, five firefighter trucks, a K-9 unit and the Los Angeles Swat team. Many students left before the lockdown. Some were stuck on campus while officials cleared each building and were not released until 9:20 p.m.  Those who stayed thought there was a shooter on campus before the all clear.

“We got a message on the phone and someone walked into Monarch Hall saying there were shots fired,” asid student Mark Salcedo on the day of the lockdown. “It was a little scary.”

The source of the 911 calls turned out to be car backfire on Fulton Avenue, a video was posted of the car and the backfire on social media.

However, there remains concerns about the amount of time it took for some of the messages to reach the intended recipients—which could be as long as 30 minutes in certain situations according to Blackboard literature. Endrijonas said that the Chief Information Officer for the Los Angeles Community College District is working with Blackboard to find a solution for that issue.

In response to a request for comment, Blackboard spokesman, D’Anthony White said;

Our records show that the college successfully sent 11 Blackboard Connect emergency notifications, delivering 37,000 notifications in 3 minutes through a combination of phone calls, SMS and email.

The success of notifications can be impacted by a number of factors, including incorrect phone numbers and emails entered by the institution, phone hang ups, and a student’s decision to opt-out of notifications.  Additionally the institution selects the recipients and controls who receives what message. We are working with the college to better refine its emergency notification processes going forward.

Herbert Orellana, Solomon Smith and James Brisson contributed to this article.

A version of this story was published in the print edition of The Valley Star, volume 88, Issue No. 5 dated December 8, 2016


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