“I regret that this occurred, that people were frightened,” said Utah State University President Noelle Cockett.
Cockett’s admission comes a day after a campus wide alert was issued advising students about a possible threat. A “false alarm” was sent out shortly thereafter.
USU Chief of Police Michael Kuehn said he was “disturbed”.
“I deeply apologize for any disruption, anxiety or angst that it caused,” he said.
Administration, faculty, staff and students gathered in the Taggart Student Center Thursday, less than 24 hours after many of them frantically ran from classrooms, others leaving campus altogether.
President Cockett met with the group in an effort to explain why the false alarm occurred. She was also looking for feedback on how the university could have better handled the situation and wanted to hear from campus community members about their experiences during the “false” Code Blue Alert.
The Code Blue Altert was accidentally issued just after 3 p.m. Wednesday. The alert stated: “We’ve received reports of an armed aggressor on the USU Logan campus. Run, hide, or fight. Police responding.”
The alert was sent out electronically by text message and social media, through the school’s Code Blue Alert system. It quickly spread online through the campus.
Eight minutes later, the school sent out a second alert that said: “All Clear: During testing of the Code Blue system, an alert was accidentally sent. Disregard previous message. Resume normal activities.”
“I don’t know what caused it,” Chief Kuehn said. “A crossed wire, a glitch in the software. We don’t know, but we’re working on that.”
President Crockett explained that while installing a new emergency alert system, the message about an armed aggressor was accidentally triggered and sent to the Logan campus.
The delay in issuing the “false alarm” alert was due in part because it had to be manually entered into the system and go through an approval process.
“If the system had been fully in place,” according to President Cockett, “that second message would have immediately gone out.”
“We did everything we could to shut that down as quickly as possible.” said Chief Kuehn.
During that eight minute delay in sending out the “false alarm”, faculty, staff and students responded to the possible threat in a variety of ways.
Abrianna Resendes was taking a test in the computer lab. The USU student said she wasn’t sure what to do because she still had 30 minutes left in the testing center. Resendes wondered if she should continue taking the test, or leave. She said, “I became flustered and lost focus. I was so shaken that I did not do well on the exam.”
Rachel Larsen complained about being stuck in a paid parking lot while trying to leave campus. “It was a joke.”
One staff member said he never received a text. Another student complained many were not taking the alert seriously.
Whitney Johnson said she had previously watched a “fight or flight response” video and “I found myself a lot more prepared than my peers.” She stressed the need for everyone, including faculty, staff and students to be trained in “fight or flight response.”
“This has been an incredible wake up,” said Cockett. She received a total of 16 different suggestions from those attending the listening session and said the university will “get working on them.”
“Thank gosh it turned out to be false,” Cockett said. “It does provide us with an opportunity to really look at what worked and what didn’t.”