Pitt reviewing Emergency Notification System after ‘delayed and flawed’ response Monday night


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Police exit Hillman Library Monday night after evacuating students from the building.

By Punya Bhasin, News Editor

Pitt said it is reviewing its Emergency Notification System and retraining its communications staff after a “delayed and flawed” response to a hoax active shooter incident in Hillman Library Monday night. 

At around 11:15 p.m. on Monday, Pitt and City police responded to reports of shots fired at Hillman Library. This threat was ultimately determined to be “unfounded,” and there were no injuries. However, Pittsburgh Public Safety said a City police officer used a gun to gain access to a locked door in Hillman Library. 

In an email sent to students, Ted Fritz, the vice chancellor for public safety and emergency management, said the shot used to help gain access to the building caused “understandable alarm.” He said officers were also dispatched to a similar call at Mervis Hall. This is the second report of an active shooter near campus that has turned out to be false in two weeks. 

It took more than an hour after police evacuated the library for Pitt to send out an ENS alert. They sent out a blank alert before sending out another one that clarified that the active shooter threat was “unfounded and false.” Fritz said the messages were both “delayed and flawed” while officers went to Mervis Hall, and that the University is reviewing the system and retraining its staff through “exercises,” which they started last week. 

Fritz also said Pitt will open a student support space Tuesday in the O’Hara Student Center from noon to 2 p.m. where Pitt’s crisis support team will be available to talk with students due to the “dangerous” and “distressing” nature of hoax incidents. 

The University Center for Teaching and Learning encouraged professors to be “flexible and responsive to students,” including by avoiding administering tests and considering canceling class. 

Fritz said despite the flawed ENS notifications on Monday night, the Pitt community “can and should expect to receive ENS messages in an active killer situation.” He said police issue ENS messages in a “significant emergency and where its use will not compromise the emergency response.” 

Fritz added that the information in the alerts will likely be “minimal and accurate” because they are “designed to give brief instruction on what you can do to keep yourself safe.”

“Please remember that the police are actively determining what is happening and may not have the facts to consistently relay to the community. We understand you may want more information and want it faster,” Fritz said. “Public Safety’s goal will also continue to be to provide accurate information, so the content may be quite limited as officers gain an understanding of the situation. We can and will do better with the technology.” 

All University members are automatically subscribed to receive ENS messages by email. Fritz strongly encouraged individuals to sign up for the optional text and phone messages as well. Additionally, ENS messaging will be posted on the Pitt Police social media.

Fritz said in the event of an active killer situation, Pitt encourages people to follow the RUN-HIDE-FIGHT approach developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.