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Thursday's incident at Pritchard Hall


BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 13, 2008 – As you know, Virginia Tech Police received reports today of “sounds like gunfire” in the vicinity of Pritchard Hall. Police were on the scene within three minutes and secured the building entrances within several more minutes. While searching the building floor by floor and room by room, they also interviewed witnesses who saw two persons near a dumpster between Pritchard and Lee Halls at about the same time the sounds were heard.

With the assistance of the university explosives detective dog, police searched the area and found a casing from a power actuated nailer, commonly called a nail-gun, adjacent to the dumpster. Based on this evidence and the eyewitness reports, police theorize that the two persons seen near the dumpster exploded the cartridge, possibly by slamming the lid. Due to the location between two high-rise dormitories, the sound would likely have echoed.

The two individuals seen by eyewitnesses near the dumpster are described as a white male wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and a black male with a bushy or braided hairstyle. Police are still investigating and ask that anyone with information contact VTPD at 231-6411.

As events unfolded, Virginia Tech used its emergency notification system to inform the community of what was happening. This was the first time the system was used other than a test.

At approximately 1:40 p.m. the first emergency message was sent to the entire university community using the university homepage, campus-wide e-mail, electronic message boards in classrooms, and VT Alerts. While the university communications systems worked well (university homepage, campus-wide e-mail, electronic message boards in classrooms), the VT Alerts system did not perform as expected, and some messages were not delivered.

As the incident progressed, a second and third message to the university community was sent, using the same four methods. Again, the university systems worked well, however, the VT Alerts system failed to work and transmit the second and third message.

Virginia Tech has been in touch with 3n, the outside vendor that manages the delivery of VT Alerts for the university, to understand why the system failed to deliver all the text and voice mail messages and messages to non university e-mail accounts. VT Alert is intended to reach mobile devices—primarily voice messages or text messages to cell phones—with emergency information.

Once the university finds out from 3n why VT Alerts did not work as expected, it will share that information with the university community.

Virginia Tech continues to do everything it can to respond quickly to emergency events. We attempt to use as many channels as possible to notify the community of emergency situations. We regret that the one system not under our control failed to work as expected.