On Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, a student in St. Monica Hall believed they heard multiple gun shots and called 911.Shortly after, at 5:36pm, the University community received a Nova Alert in the form of emails and text messages that an active shooter was present in St. Monica Hall. The original text alert stated, “ACTIVE SHOOTER Incident Warning: ACTIVE SHOOTER on VU campus at St. Monica Hall, Shelter in place. Lock/barricade doors. More info to follow.”
In the email alert discussing the same situation, individuals on campus were advised to take immediate precautions such as securing the immediate area, taking protective actions, what to report and how to treat the injured.
Updates soon followed the original text, with a total of three other text alerts sent out. At 5:54pm, the second Nova Alert read, “Shots Fired Update: Police are on scene. No indication of a shooting. Building sweep in progress. Stand by for update.” Another follow up text was sent at 6:04pm, stating “No shots fired. Building is all clear.” The final Nova Alert was sent at 6:13pm: “UPDATE: All clear. NO shots were fired. Building is all clear and no need to shelter in place.”
Many students, faculty, staff, and parents were confused by the seemingly mixed messages received, whether there was ever an active shooter or any weapons present. What actually happened? David Tedjeske, the University Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety, cleared up confusion as to why the University was so quick to use language such as “active shooter” and “shots fired.” “Until we fully checked the building, you really don’t know what might have happened,” Tedjeske stated.
Chief Tedjeske explained the Nova Alert system process. The system is a template with pre-scripted buttons as the best practice is not to type out alert messages as real time situations are occurring. Instead, the dispatchers working at any given time have certain options to send as Nova Alerts based on types of emergency situations and this is why the original Nova Alert stated that an “active shooter” was present on campus.
This situation, although it ended safely, emphasized the need to “balance not panicking people, but being as cautious as we can be as we can’t take any chances,” Tedjeske said.
The Nova Alert system was launched in 2007 and that was the last time it was used for an emergency situation. “These kinds of situations are wake up calls, something like this could really happen here,” Tedjeske said.
The Office for Residence Life provided a statement regarding the situation:
“First, the Office of Residence Life would like to commend Public Safety and the Radnor Police Department for their quick response to the incident this past Monday.
Our Residence Staff receives training in many aspects of managing emergency situations during Fall Training, as well as in-service training programs held throughout the year. Within the next few weeks all Residence Staff will receive additional instruction on how to educate residents on safety protocols.
The RAs play a major role in the setting the tone for a residential community, but we want to acknowledge that our RAs are also students and all Villanova residents play an important role in the safety of our halls. When an emergency takes place, we expect our RAs to respond the same way that any student should respond – get yourself to safety.
Lastly, we acknowledge that many students were impacted by this alert. We want our residents to feel comfortable and safe in our residence halls, and throughout campus. We encourage students to reach out to their RAs, our professional staff members, as well as other campus resources if they are still processing the impact of these events.”- Marie Schauder (Director for Housing and Operations) and Dillon Eppenstein (Director for Residential Programs/RA Program)
A full review between Public Safety, the Radnor Police Department, 911 dispatchers and other emergency personnel is scheduled to take place. As part of the review, the possible expansion of options for pre-written Nova Alert scripts will be discussed. “We are extremely pleased with the response time of Public Safety and Radnor Police Department and how everyone is trained to work together,” Tedjeske said. Public Safety has been working on an educational video for active shooter situations that will be soon released to the University community. Public Safety was impressed with student cooperation throughout the situation.