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Active assailant alert sent to students late Tuesday night

By Julieanne Acosta, October 26 2022

On Tuesday night, some students were notified of an active assailant on the University of Calgary’s main campus near Science Theatres. An alert was sent out through an emergency app that the U of C has used since December 2020 — Alertus — meant to notify students on their mobile devices. Campus computers also projected the alert. 

“There is an active assailant on the Main campus near the Science Theatres building. Get out, hide or fight. Follow the direction of police,” the alert read. 

According to the U of C’s Emergency Management website, an “active assailant” is defined as someone who is actively engaging in killing or attempting to kill others in a confined area.  

Following the initial alert, the U of C tweeted a similar announcement to students with the Calgary Police Services (CPS) following suit shortly afterwards. 

“We are currently on scene at the University of Calgary campus investigating reports of a male with a knife. No injuries have been reported. We ask the public to avoid the area while we continue to investigate.” read CPS’ tweet to the general public. 

The alert ended less than an hour after it was issued. However, no suspect was found and the situation was cleared by CPS stating that the suspect had left campus.

Many students voiced their concerns on social media regarding how the situation was handled by campus security.

“Just got this message on our Desktop screens at the @UCalgary Library of a ‘Person with a Weapon’ on campus, with instructions including to ‘fight.’ No PA announcement, no alarm. Poorly handled, told to leave building? Campus Sec not pickup up [sic],” said one student on twitter after they were notified of the situation while at the U of C’s widely used library, the Taylor Family Digital Library. 

Some students took to Reddit to detail their own concerns with Alertus. 

“Just got a notification on the UofC emergency alert app that there’s an active assailant on campus, but when I go to open the app for more info, it says server offline,” one student noted on the Reddit thread.  

In a statement to the Gauntlet, the U of C ensured that they are committed to working towards improving the alert system. 

“The UCalgary Alertus Emergency system worked as intended on desktop computers, issuing a notice to computers advising of the situation. We are currently reviewing the situation with our Alertus Support Team and UCalgary IT Services to ensure the mobile Alertus app is functioning properly,” read the statement. “Our expectations for such systems are they work every time, and we apologize to the campus community that they appear to have had challenges in this instance. We are committed to ensuring a reliable and effective communication system is in place for the UCalgary community and are taking the necessary steps to address the current gaps.

“The university also provided further messaging to the campus community via building mass notification systems, social media (i.e. Twitter), and a banner alert on the main UCalgary webpage. Depending upon the situation, the University of Calgary uses a number of communication platforms to help inform our campus community,” continued the statement.

Moving forward, the U of C reiterated that they are continuing with an investigation of last night’s events. 

“While no one was injured in last night’s incident, we continue to investigate this serious situation that involved an armed suspect no longer on campus, in conjunction with the Calgary Police Service. An investigation is ongoing,” read the statement.

In a general statement to the media, Students’ Union (SU) President Nicole Schmidt commented on the issue and addressed student concerns. 

“The SU is thankful that no one appears to have been physically hurt during the incident on campus last night. We are grateful to Campus Security and the Calgary Police Service for their response and for ensuring the safety of all those on campus. We have heard from many students who say that they did not receive the alert from the campus wide emergency app, Alertus,” wrote Schmidt. “This is concerning as all those who were on campus should have been notified of the active assailant. The SU will be inquiring about what the university can do to ensure that emergency information like this is received by all who need it in a timely, accurate, and efficient way. We will not have any further comment to make on this matter.”

Students who may have witnessed anything are urged to call CPS at 403-266-1234. Students can learn more about Alertus on the U of C website

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