๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Burlington Mall Shooting, WA. Suspect on run. We review local digital alerts.

Photo: Washington State Police

United States: Another public shooting has taken place in the US, with a gunman reported to have opened fire in the Cascade Shopping Mall in Burlington, Washington State.

We send our condolences to the community, victims and their families and our thoughts are especially with first responders and ER staff.
Skagit County Department of Emergency Management (SCDEM) is distributing information about the incident on Twitter at @SkagitDEM using hashtag #CascadeMallShooting. Washington State Patrol Public Information Office (PIO) Sgt Mark Francis is also tweeting at the scene as @wspd7pio.

3 to 4 people have been reported deceased in the shopping mall and others injured. The offender is currently not in custody and local residents have been warned to stay inside and lock their doors.

Seattle FBI is assisting with the investigation and manpower. They issued a statement on Twiter:

While we certainly do not want to critise law enforcement or emergency management officials in the mist of an operation, we do not the following observations for review after the incident. We praise & support law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters and other officials for putting themselves in harms way to protect and serve communities.

We have of advantage of distance from the emergency and no involvement in the public emergency. We do note officials, however, should be resourced to provide warning and public information in the channels they says the will. If not, public statements need to be adjusted., well before an emergency.

PIO’s have now left the site for the night, after a no-doubt  harrowing evening. As digital media becomes more prevalent, the public turn more and more directly to agencies, in addition to traditional media (press, TV, etc).

People trapped in a shopping mall would not chose to put on a radio or TV, but to access digital alerts from authorities (and media outlets). Here are some opportunities to review:

  • Website: Skagit County Department of Emergency Management has a website with a page for “Current Emergency Incidents.” The page currently has and for the duration of the emergency, shown “No events at this time.”
  • Twitter: Like other agencies in critical incidents, the tenancy has been to defer to a traditional conference and one social media channel: Twitter.
  • Facebook: Although many agencies say to connect with them on social media giant Facebook, they often miss this social media outlet altogether. This is a little perplexing at times, as it the social media platform with most users. The problem with this is, people relying on the agency advice find that accord to the agency on Facebook, the emergency does not exist.

Our key point for agencies is, revise your public content. Don’t make a commitment you can’t resource.

While a law enforcement emergency may not be a traditional “Emergency Management” disaster, like a wildfire, flood or tornado, clearly OEMs and DEM see this as an area they wish engage in. 

In this case, all communications are referred to the County DEM (SCDEM), including by the State Police. The SCDEM clearly states alerts will be posted on multiple channels including Facebook and  the SCDEM website.

Unfortunately, the last post the SCDEM is not related to the incident but #NatlPrep.

Also the Countu Sheriff Facebook Page has no reference to the event. The Washington State Patrol Facebook page directs people to follow their PIO on Twitter.

As we said earlier, this a constructive observation to be considered in post operation review.  Key point:

Retain public trust in your communications: do what you say you will do in an emergency (though in times of crisis, we know it can be tough).

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