University Relations and Communications

March 25, 2009


To: Students, faculty, staff and friends of MSU Billings
From: Dan Carter, Director, University Relations


Re: Follow-up to Wednesday’s lockdown


Students, colleagues and friends:


The lockdown of the MSU Billings campus yesterday was a valuable experience on many levels. It will take some time to bring all of the elements of the event into sharp focus, but after an extensive initial review and debriefing, we can offer you the following overview of events:

  • At approximately 12:15 p.m. yesterday, a student reported seeing two individuals carrying weapons on campus. The student told a staff member in Student Opportunity Services, who then called University Police. By 12:20 p.m., a lockdown notice was issued.
  • This prompted a swift, coordinated response by University Police and the Billings Police Department. At the same time, MSU Billings implemented its emergency notification system.
  • The reports of weapons on campus ultimately turned out to be two ROTC students carrying non-working, rubber replicas of firearms issued to them for training purposes. Just before 1 p.m., MSU Billings announced the "all-clear."

An hour later, MSU Billings’ Emergency Crisis Communication Committee met with the Billings Police Department for a debriefing. The initial conclusions reached in that meeting are encouraging, but there is also evidence that some of our notification systems and procedures require additional refinement.


What worked well?

  • A student who saw something out of the ordinary was bold enough to step forward and report it.  It cannot be overstated how important it is for students to speak up when something appears unusual.
  • Appropriate individuals provided the necessary information to the University Police and Billings Police.  
  • Response time and cooperation was very good to the lockdown request.

What didn’t work well?

  • Text-messaging of emergency notification didn’t get to everyone who signed up for it, either because of heavy cell traffic or server problems.
  • Emergency messages on signs and clocks weren’t seen by everyone.
  • The voice on the loudspeaker on the main campus used to announce the lockdown wasn’t loud enough.
  • Not all faculty and staff knew about the emergency procedure guidelines.

We will work on addressing those issues, provide training as needed and continue to assess our work.


Because of the tragedies and Virginia Tech and other universities, we take these kinds of situations and reports seriously. Safety and security of our students, faculty and staff is a vital concern to us. We will use this event to improve our communications strategies and systems, do more drills and improve planning.


As expected, students are experiencing a range of emotions from this incident. Any student who wishes to talk to a mental health counselor can do so by contacting Student Health Services at 657-2153.  We have counselors available to assist you.


Staff or faculty who also wish to talk with a counselor can do so through the University Wellness Program.  You can call Life Connection at 866-248-4532.


Lastly, if you have not done so, this would be a good time to sign up for the emergency notification system. It is a free notification system that provides information to your cell phone and e-mail in times of crisis or severe weather. It is available to students, parents, faculty, staff and community members. You can find out about it at:


Thank you for your understanding and your cooperation as we move forward.


Stay safe and enjoy the rest of your week.


Dan Carter