The High-Tech Texan Blog

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech Shootings

Horrible. I first learned of the shootings from a website on my Blackberry. Other friends and listeners of mine were notified via services like Twitter, FaceBook and emails. I remember hearing stories from my mom and my uncle about the worst school shooting ever - until today.

They grew up in Austin and were high school students that August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman opened fire from atop the UT campus tower. I remember that Whitman was an Eagle Scout, like me, and wondered how could such a person commit such a heinous crime. Many people around the world still associate UT with that act of manslaughter 41 years ago.

The chaos this morning on the VT campus had to be just as hectic that fateful morning in Austin, but the communication between the school administration, students and the outside world was much more immediate than in Austin way back when. Stories are already circulating on the Internet of how the school sent emails to notify students and faculty of the shootings. But was the enough communication? And how quickly was it sent and updated? What about the people who weren't on their laptop or desktops at the time to check email?

The first thing I would grab when fleeing for safety (other than my kids) would be my cell phone. And since most all phones today can receive text messages, this to me would be the quickest way to reach a mass amount of people for emergency messages. I have to imagine a large majority of the students have cell phones.

How feasible is it for colleges to gather student and faculty cell phone numbers to communicate in just such an emergency? Same question can be applied to all schools to let parents know about life-threatening issues that affects their kids.



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