People experienced a false alarm on Wednesday afternoon that some compared to last year’s missile scare in Hawaii when Utah State University sent out a Code Blue alert stating there was an “armed aggressor” on campus.
Everyone who received the alert was advised to go on lockdown and to run, hide or fight if they should encounter the alleged gunman.
About 10 minutes later — after the alert spread like wildfire on social media and other electronic means — the university announced the alert was sent out by mistake while testing the emergency alert system.
The notification merely said “All Clear: During testing of the Code Blue system, an alert was accidentally sent. Disregard previous message. Resume normal activities.”
The USU Police Department and USU Facebook pages reported that technicians were working on the system when the alert was accidentally sent at 3:01 p.m., and a retraction was sent out at 3:10 p.m.
There was no actual threat on the campus.
In a press release written by Amanda DeRito, USU said that “during the installation of new emergency alert buttons today, a message about an armed aggressor was accidentally sent out.”
The press release states that USU recently purchased a new system to send out emergency notifications rapidly in the event of a campus emergency. The system includes buttons attached to the wall at USU Public Safety dispatch in order for a message to be sent out quickly in a real emergency.
USU Department of Public Safety Chief of Police Mike Kuehn released a statement Wednesday evening apologizing for the incident.
“We know the Code Blue alert earlier today caused panic and was very frightening for members of the Utah State University community,” the statement read. “We are deeply sorry for the disruption caused by the alert.”
Kuehn stated that at USU safety is their primary concern.
“Earlier today, technicians were in the process of installing the new component when an emergency notification was inadvertently triggered,” Kuehn stated. “We are still looking into what caused this technical issue.”
The experience has highlighted some areas where USU can improve its safety response, Kuehn stated, and that the department will be following up on how to better prepare the campus community.
Edith Bowen Laboratory School, an elementary on the USU campus, went on lockout following the Code Blue Alert, according to an email to parents about the false alarm. USU Police then instructed the school to initiate a lockdown, which they did. The lockdown only lasted “6 or 7 minutes” before they were notified that it was a false alarm, the email signed by Edith Bowen Principal Nathan Justis states.
“We apologize for any undue concern this caused for you or your student(s),” the email states. “Please know that in the case of a real threat, we are trained and ready to respond and will communicate with you in as timely a manner as possible. Please let us know if you have any questions about this occurrence.”
The Code Blue alert system was implemented to alert students via phone messages of unsafe conditions on campus, including threats or weather.
Reactions on social media were mixed with students and community members sighing in relief.
Kalen Taylor, a graduate instructor in the languages, philosophy and communication studies department, tweeted that he was teaching at the time of the alert.
“It was nuts,” Taylor tweeted. “Only twelve people today and everyone ran to one side, turned the lights off, a few students and I barricaded both doors, we established a pee corner and then we hoped for the best.”
Hannah Leavitt was working on campus and went to the Taggart Student Center to get a soda when the alert went out.
“Everyone was kind of panicky and I had no idea what was going on,” Leavitt told The Herald Journal in an interview. “I saw my friend, and she said ‘you need to leave,’ and I didn’t understand. Someone got up and yelled that we needed to get out of the building and pointed us to an emergency exit.”
Leavitt said that she was very hesitant to go outside because, to her knowledge, there was an active shooter and nobody knew where. Leavitt ran to her car and drove home when she got the alert that it was an accident.
Student Matt Graves tweeted, “I was in the library in what would have been deemed a very vulnerable spot. All of the students and faculty responded in a calm and professional way.”
Alek Nelson on Twitter said, “the fact that multiple classes continued because of the lack of awareness or disregard of the alert is most concerning to me.”