UNF hires consultant to review emergency response after gun scare

The campus was locked down Feb. 11 in response to a report of an armed person

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – University of North Florida President David Szymanski has ordered a complete review of the university’s response to a gun scare on campus triggered by a false report earlier this month. To carry out that review, the university has hired an outside emergency management consultant.

The goal of the review – which will focus on personnel, technology, procedures and training, among other areas – is to pin down exactly what went right and what may have gone wrong with how the university handled the incident, according to a message posted on the university’s website.

“Interim measures have been implemented to ensure that future notification and communication of emergency messages are handled appropriately,” the message said in part. “Once the comprehensive review is completed, the findings will be shared with the University community.”

Attempts on Wednesday to reach Szymanski for comment were unsuccessful.

Authorities placed the university campus on lockdown Feb. 11 after receiving a report about a person armed with a gun at the parking garage near the UNF Arena. A search of the area found no sign of the person described in the report, which investigators later concluded was a hoax.

One week later, university officials disclosed that they found two flaws with the university’s response. UNF spokesperson Sharon Ashton said a police dispatcher mistakenly emailed an alert that should have gone out via phone and text, and 1,500 people never got the notification due to a “technical error.”

Also, the university found that its indoor and outdoor PA system should have been used to notify students and staff on campus. Moving forward, officials said, campus police dispatchers will receive additional training. The school didn’t rule out the possibility of hiring another dispatcher, as well.

The changes are welcome news to students like Kenisha Gray. While she feels safe on campus, Gray was surprised that the campus alert system appeared to fail when it might have been needed most. "I didn’t get the alert until about two hours after, so that was a little scary," Gray said.

Freshman student Amelia Lorenzen told News4Jax she uses the parking garage at the center of the incident. “I do know that there is an app and I have it on my phone, but I don’t know, if I was in class and it would go off, what I would do in that situation,” she said.

In the message posted on the university's website, officials said they hope to have the study completed within a few weeks. Afterward, they said it will be made available to the entire campus community.

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