St. Thomas U reviews emergency response following incident

St. Thomas University is looking at changing its emergency communication plan to include social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Quick spread of rumours through Facebook, Twitter created problem for police, STU officials

St. Thomas University is looking at changing its emergency communication plan to include social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

On Sept. 20, an emergency response team from the Fredericton police swarmed the STU campus in response to a call from a STU employee who reported a man acting suspiciously.

"There was like 20 cops here and so, it was kind of weird because they were just standing around with these big guns just looking at all of us," said student Sarah Crowell.

The sight of police officers with assault weapons on the St. Thomas University campus on Sept. 20 led to rampant speculation and misinformation on Twitter and Facebook. (Terry Seguin)

News of the incident spread quickly through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. So did rumours.

The man in question was arrested, unarmed, and released without charges after questioning.

Fredericton police issued a follow up news release, warning people about, "speculation on social media sites."

STU student Robert Buggie wonders if it's even possible to stop speculation in a developing event like the campus incident.

"In an event that was public like that, people are going to voice their own opinions and stuff so you can't really contain that," said Buggie.

University spokesperson Jeffrey Carleton says it took about 30 minutes for the university to issue statements on what happened. He says that may not be fast enough, given how quickly information travels through social media.

"This was the first situation that I'd ever seen that was essentially covered or broadcast in real time," said Carleton.

"We had to make sure that our message was accurate and appropriate for what the police wanted," he said. "We issued it through traditional means and then we issued it through social media."

"Next time I think we'll have to be a little quicker on the social media."

University administrators say they'll be looking at a number of plans and policies in light of what happened. But most importantly, they'll be looking at their mass communication plan to make sure they can get information out as quickly as possible - and as accurately as possible.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.