A Message from the Auraria Executives Council: Providing Actionable and Timely Communications During Emergencies 

Sent: April 16, 2021

Dear Auraria Campus Community, 

Last week we sent a memo detailing the events of April 6, when a man stabbed a victim on an RTD light rail train near campus. Believing there was potential for a larger-scale active harmer situation based on the initial witness reports, the Auraria Campus Police Department (ACPD) sent out an automated text message alert that read: “AURARIA CAMPUS lockdown! All entry doors are locked. Increase your awareness. Run, hide, or fight if appropriate. Additional info from police will follow ASAP.”

Over the past week, we have heard from many students, faculty, and staff who took that message seriously—running to safety, hiding in barricaded classrooms, and locking up their offices. We want to thank you for your continued partnership and commitment to safety. We must remain diligent with safety precautions because we don’t know when a more serious situation may occur. 

We know many of you felt very unsettled as you waited for the next update from police and we acknowledge your valid criticism that 42 minutes was too long to receive the location and basic description of the incident. That second text message, which came at 5 p.m., read: “Auraria Campus Police & Denver Police continue to investigate a stabbing near 5th & Walnut. A suspect is in custody. Campus is re-open.”

The day after the incident, we told you that we would soon conduct an “after-action review” of all aspects of the incident and report back to you on any lessons learned and policy changes. We have held our initial meetings. And let us be clear on a key finding: the language and timeliness of the April 6 text alerts were inadequate. While the communications followed existing standard operating procedures, we fully recognize that the original text message caused undue stress and confusion. We know we can improve and pledge to do so in a timely manner.

There is more work ahead, but we are prepared today to share concrete steps we’ll take to provide you with actionable and timely communications during emergencies.  

  1. First alert: With tri-institutional input, ACPD has changed the language for its initial, automated text alert during a lockdown to read as follows: “Auraria Alert: Campus is under security lockdown. Increase your awareness. Police will send additional info shortly.”  If you receive this message in the future, please know it is pre-loaded as part of our lockdown procedures and you should consider protective actions (including Run, Hide, or Fight) until ACPD sends further information.
  2. Location/description: Follow-on messages will continue to build situational awareness as ACPD gathers additional information on the incident. A second message will be sent as promptly as practicable, with a goal of providing a location and description in less than 5 minutes. Each situation is unique and ACPD will make every attempt to provide as much information as possible as the situation unfolds. 
  3. Messaging cadence: ACPD will further commit to providing timely updates throughout the incident, with the goal of updating every 15 minutes. Even if there is no new information to share, ACPD will send additional text alert(s) confirming the most recent reported information is still accurate.

We also want our campus community to be informed about the actions they should consider during an emergency. ACPD and the CU Anschutz Police Department earlier this week held a virtual Active Harmer Response training. ACPD will host similar in-person training sessions April 28 and May 13 and we encourage you to sign up.

Our revised emergency communications practices mark starting points for improving the way we keep you informed during times of crisis. ACPD, as well as emergency managers and communicators from our institutions, will continue to deploy best practices and train for these situations. We owe that to you, so you can make informed decisions for your safety. We are grateful that the April 6 case turned out to be an isolated incident and no students, faculty, or staff were physically harmed. With that said, we acknowledge the emotional toll that the messaging had on members of our community. We know that we need to rebuild your trust. Safety is of the utmost importance, and together, we will do better.        

Michelle Marks, Ph.D., Chancellor
University of Colorado Denver 

Marielena DeSanctis, Ph.D., President
Community College of Denver

Janine Davidson, Ph.D., President
Metropolitan State University of Denver 

Colleen Walker, Chief Executive Officer
Auraria Higher Education Center

Chancellor’s Office

CU Denver

Lawrence Street Center

1380 Lawrence Street

Suite 1400

Denver, CO 80204


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