HUB Mall incident response appropriate: Reports

(Edmonton) In a pair of reports looking into the actions of University of Alberta officials in responding to the June 15 HUB Mall incident that left three security-company employees dead and one seriously wounded, the university’s Risk Management Services office has determined that the situation was handled appropriately and in a timely manner.

"Bearing in mind that emergency response to violent crime such as this is the responsibility of the City Police, who did their job very well, we believe our emergency response processes and actions functioned effectively in this situation," said Philip Stack, associate vice-president of Risk Management Services and chief author of the reports. "No members of our community were injured; we worked effectively with emergency responders; we communicated with all of our many stakeholder groups; and the university was able to return to its normal work very quickly."

During the incident, the university’s Crisis Management Team (CMT) was required to support first responders, displaced university residents, members of the university community and university events affected by the incident. While the incident highlighted the strength of the CMT and the benefits of routine exercises and drills, said Stack, it also revealed areas for improvement relating to staffing and the speed with which an incident can overwhelm first-responder resources.

With a desire to continually improve the response to emergency situations and to address concerns about the HUB Mall incident, the U of A commissioned a pair of reports looking into the CMT’s actions in response to the incident. The first report, a standard debrief produced after activation of the CMT and the Emergency Operations Centre, looked at what was done well and areas that can be improved upon.

The second report looked more closely at how administrators communicated events to the university community, specifically focusing on questions asked by some members of the university community as to why the university notification system was not used.

In this case, the report supported the decision not to implement the university notification system, citing the information that was available immediately following the incident and the nature of the incident itself.

“There were some very real and legitimate worries and anxiety people expressed to us concerning the decisions made with regard to the communication of the June 15 incident to the university community,” said Stack. “Based on the facts associated with the incident and our current policies on the use of the system, we have determined that the university acted clearly within defined policies and procedures.

“That being said, we are listening to those who raised concerns and will continue to review our emergency protocols and take a closer look at the issues surrounding the deployment of the emergency notification system with less than perfect information.”

The two reports identified 19 recommendations for administrators to review. The recommendations can be found at the Office of Emergency Management website.

"As in all events of this kind, we have reviewed every piece of information we can about the event in order to identify improvements. Several recommendations have been identified; we will be acting on many of them," said Stack. "We have already corrected certain elements of our systems, including a glitch in our mass email capabilities and in processes to reach senior U of A Protective Services officials during off hours.

"We will learn from the whole experience and will be better prepared in future."

A third-party report is underway on how the university responded to the incident, with a significant focus on communications and interaction with the Edmonton Police Service. The report was commissioned to ensure that the university’s emergency response policies and procedures reflect best practices, said Stack. Details are expected before the end of the year.

Read the recommendations

Emergency Response Recommendations From the June 2012 HUB Mall Incident (PDF)