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Alerts were not received by some after shooting

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NOVEMBER 16, 2011

At 2:55 p.m. Tuesday, the UC Berkeley WarnMe emergency alert service was put into action for the first time this year to inform community members — some as far away as New York — of a shooting at the campus Haas School of Business.

The Office of Public Affairs sent out messages to 39,000 recipients Tuesday afternoon. However, the office has received numerous complaints that some people who signed up did not receive the three urgent messages alerting the community of the shooting, according to Claire Holmes, associate vice chancellor of public affairs.

“I’ve heard some feedback that people said they didn’t receive the message, so we’re looking into that,” Holmes said.

She added that CalMail was down for a portion of the day, further contributing to the system’s issues.

WarnMe is a voluntary program available to everyone at UC Berkeley and in the surrounding community, including those unaffiliated with the university, according to Holmes.

The system relies on email, text messages and phone calls, Holmes said. The program was enacted seven years ago by a task force created by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

Only the UCPD and the Office of Public Affairs have the ability to send WarnMe alerts. At 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, a message was sent out informing students that the school was secure.

“There is no longer a threat at Haas Business School,” read the WarnMe message. “Campus activities have returned to normal.”

According to Holmes, the school was secured much earlier than that, but UCPD and the Office of Public Affairs wanted to confirm that the threat was over before sending out the message. However, the school was closed off until later in the day to allow UCPD to investigate the crime scene.

“All classes are canceled for the rest of the day and evening due to a shooting at the school,” said Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean for instruction, in an email to all students at the business school. “All students, faculty and staff are safe.”

A total of 42,000 people are signed up for the system, including the majority of UC Berkeley students, according to Holmes.

“I think it works well, because I knew exactly what was going on yesterday,” said UC Berkeley freshman Jen Winnett.

WarnMe will be activated in any situation that threatens lives in the community, according to the system’s website, including a major chemical spill, a natural disaster, a bomb threat or, as in the case of Tuesday, a shooting.

“I know a lot of people who just signed up because of what happened yesterday,” said Emily Cummins, a UC Berkeley freshman.

WarnMe was created because of incidents on other college campuses that caused concern, according to the website.

“We have a lot to do in the next few days,” Holmes said. “I would encourage everyone to sign up.”

Contact Travis Bickham at 


NOVEMBER 16, 2011