Use The Tools You Have…Period

One week ago today another mass shooting took place in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The shooting spree started at around 5:40 pm on Saturday, February 20 and ended with the arrest of the suspect, Jason Dalton on Sunday, February 21 at approximately 12:40 am.

We learned about the shooting in one of three ways:

  1. Main Stream Media
  2. Social Media
  3. Friends

That’s nothing new…it’s pretty much how we learn about everything today. What changes is not where we learn about the information, it’s who we learn that information from on through those communication channels. I learned about the shooting through social media and stayed on the Internet to look for details, timelines and the story within the story.

I went looking for the facts and I turned to the trusted sources for those facts. By trusted and informational sources I mean:

  1. Local police social media accounts. (Trusted)
  2. Local and regional government social media accounts. (Trusted)
  3. Local and regional media social media accounts. (Informational)
  4. Social search…anyone who is in the area talking about it. (Informational)

In the case of the trusted sources there was nothing on social.

In the case of the informational sources I learned the suspects identity, his occupation, the vehicle he was driving and more. There is no doubt that much of that information came from the trusted sources via press notifications and conferences which was shared into the social streams, but I didn’t get any of that information from the trusted sources and that is a shame.

This morning I read an opinion article which is what led me tor write this post toady. You can click here for the article.

Kalamazoo mass shooting highlights need for emergency alert system

That was the title of the article that caught my eye, but this it the paragraph that got me mad:

The timeline illustrates¬†that it’s not always adequate for law enforcement to have to rely on the news media and social media to spread the word when lives are immediately in danger.

The article’s point was to express an opinion that there needs to be an emergency alert system in place for direct broadcaster to end user notification system. The amber alert system and campus alert systems already in place were examples used.

Let’s give police the tools they need using technology we already have to protect public safety and save lives.

Here is the problem:

You can give every tool imaginable to facilitate virtually any job needing to be done, but if the tools don’t get used, they are useless. If you don’t train the people to use the tools they are less effective and if you don’t condition the public to turn to those tools in a time of need then they are mute.

In this case the tools are available already for mass notifications…they simple weren’t utilized or used.finger-769300_1920

Here is a short list of the tools that can be utilized for the purpose of geographical based notifications from trusted sources to mass end users:

In the case of Kalamazoo, Twitter and Facebook were available by the trusted sources…but they weren’t used.

Naturally, the fly in the ointment here is when a manhunt like this is taking place can you dedicate staff to push the accurate information out and monitor what is being said online. My simple answer is…yes you can and yes you have to in today’s day and age. You just have to decide that it’s a priority in your organization or choose that notifying your community in timely manner using the available tools is not that important to you.


Kalamazoo Public Safety Twitter


Kalamazoo City Hall


Kalamazoo Public Safety Facebook

About Tim Burrows

Tim Burrows was a sworn police officer for 25 years with experience in front line operations, primary response, traffic, detective operations and supervision. He has training in a broad spectrum of policing responsibilities including, IMS, Emergency Management, computer assisted technology investigations, leadership, community policing and crisis communications. Tim is available to assist you with your social media program and communication. Click here to contact him
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