One year after false shooting alert, DPS aims to improve communication

Students exited Fertitta Hall last October after an active shooter was reported in the building. The rest of campus entered an hour-long lockdown, despite the reports being false. (Tal Volk | Daily Trojan)

One year after false reports of an active shooter prompted USC to enter an hour-long lockdown, the Department of Public Safety said it has taken multiple measures to ensure that the University is better equipped to handle similar scenarios in the future.

The incident was prompted by a professor who falsely claimed that there was a shooter inside of Fertitta Hall. The professor is no longer listed as a faculty member on the USC directory.

Captain Edgar Palmer said DPS has been working to improve the TrojansAlert system after issues arose during the false alert last year. Many students were left confused about what was happening and what to do after the shooting reports.

“I think that [communication] was something that we needed to be more on the same page with,” Palmer said. “Everyone needs to understand if they need to be staying in shelter or in place, or proceeding a certain area.”

Some students were concerned that they received the TrojansAlert notification six minutes after LAPD had received the call of a possible shooter, the Daily Trojan reported after the incident.

“We have to be careful … people always want an alert right away, but we have to put out the correct information,” Palmer said. “Sometimes, it takes a little longer to put out the correct information, so that’s something people should understand.”

Along with making TrojansAlert more location-specific, DPS has increased the number of staging areas LAPD can work out of during emergency situations after last year’s incident.

DPS hopes that by increasing the amount of response staging areas, LAPD and others can effectively respond to emergencies and devise plans closer to incident locations.

“The biggest takeaway from [the incident] was communication with staff and instructors. Instructors don’t allow phones on in the classroom and they shut their own phones off, and that’s problematic,” Palmer said. “In the case where students are looking toward their professor and asking, ‘What should we do,” and it’s a problem when the professor doesn’t know, we are taking things like that seriously.”

USC declined to comment.