Report: ALERT system response ‘inexcusably delayed’ following SCC shooting


A Sacramento City College student’s phone shows a time-stamped message from the district’s emergency message system, run by WARN Command, coming 40 minutes after the fatal shooting that occurred on campus began on Sept. 3. The district is considering new options for which company to use for the ALERT system. (Photo by Barbara Harvey)

John Ferrannini

An external report released by the Los Rios Community College District on Thursday said that the response to the Sept. 3 shooting at Sacramento City College that left one dead and two injured was “more than acceptable,” while making recommendations to improve the district’s emergency response going forward.

The report did, however, call the 45-minute period of time it took following the shooting for a text alert to be sent to the students through the Los Rios ALERT system “inexcusably delayed.”

“The report noted with respect to the text notification that the response was unacceptable,” said Los Rios Chancellor Brian King. “Overall, the fortunate part of this instance is that it’s a great chance to learn how to improve the system because there was no active shooter.”

Messages sent through the ALERT system, which students can sign up for at registration on eServices, have to go through W.A.R.N. Command, a Tennessee-based company.

SCC Public Information Officer Rick Brewer told the Current on Sept. 17 that he had problems logging on to the system to send out the message.

“After five minutes of me trying to log on to the computer, I called. There’s an 800 number, actually there are two, and I called them and ended up dictating the message,” said Brewer. “I was having trouble accessing the system and I don’t know why.”

The report clarified that Brewer was having problems with the access code, although King said that he didn’t know what that problem was specifically and Brewer said he was not cleared to release that information as of press time.

“It does bring into question things about passwords and stuff like that,” said Brewer. “I haven’t been given authority to answer that on the spot.”

More than one hundred personnel didn’t receive the ALERT message. King said that steps have been taken to ensure W.A.R.N. Command would be able to send messages to them in the event that the ALERT system needs to be used again.

King said that the district is following up on some of the recommendations made in the report, which was prepared by former FBI agent Mike Rayfield. He said that Los Rios employees are being trained about how to use the ALERT system even with distractions, including “sounds and questions—what actually happens in emergency situations.”

King also mentioned opportunities for a public announcement system.

Page 15 of the report recommends that the district “consider a system that would flash the alert on college electronic marquees” and find a way to flash an alert on school computers.

King defended a portion of the report, on page 5, that said “In spite of the absence of a W.A.R.N. notification, the combination of email, text messages, phone calls and social networking allowed the staff of SCC to become aware of the situation and immediately begin advising students and others.”

Some SCC staff said that they were not aware of the school lock down until the ALERT message was sent at 4:41 p.m.

“I don’t think there’s any one form of information that reaches out to everyone,” said King. “You’re always going to have word of mouth.”

Los Rios Chief of Police Cheryl Sears said that although district emergency procedures are effective, they need to be more understood.

“Los Rios is committed to ensuring that our emergency plans and protocols are effective,” Sears said in a press release Thursday. “And for them to be effective, these plans and protocols must be widely shared and easily understood, practiced and revised on a regular basis and—when necessary—implemented with speed and purpose.”

Sears did not respond to an email as of press time.