This week’s deadly rampage in Colorado reminded me of an active shooter threat at Houston Community College a few years ago and the response that was executed to keep the public informed.
Before we proceed further, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the people of Boulder. I cannot imagine the horror of those who were inside the store at the time or the grief and anger of the surviving family members and friends. Thankfully, the HCC crisis didn’t end with the loss of life, but it was scary and required crisis communications.
It was 2018, about 10 days before eight students and two teachers would be shot and killed at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. HCC students were taking their finals and graduation plans were underway.
Using a fictitious name, 21-year old Luis Antonio Rivera posted the following on Facebook: “I will attack and shoot everyone and kill everyone in hcc Central campus in May 7 2018 I will kill everyone including students and teachers are gonna die and also I will kill the hcc police department.”
The post ignited an FBI investigation and HCC went into crisis mode, releasing the following statement:
“Houston Community College will close its Central College campus at 1300 Holman Street tomorrow due to a shooting threat made on social media this weekend. HCC takes all matters with implications for the security of its students, faculty and staff seriously. HCC and its police department are actively working with other law enforcement agencies to identify the source of the threat in an effort to eliminate the risk of harm. HCC will provide additional security at each of its other campuses while this matter is under investigation. If you are aware of any information that would be helpful, please contact HCC PD at 713–718–8888. All updates will be available on our website, www.hccs.edu."
Central Campus reopened two days later with enhanced security measures in place. At the time, I was serving in a contract position as the interim director of media management and PR for HCC. I wrote the comments the chancellor used in announcing the reopening. The original version included assurances from the chancellor that he was confident enough in the measures put in place that he would feel…