Virginia Tech’s New Emergency Alert System Failed During a “Gunfire” Sound Scare

November 19, 2008

It was a false alarm, although Virginia Tech (VT) students didn’t know it at the time when they reported hearing gunshots near one of its buildings. VT police flooded the scene and surrounded the building, searching for suspects who may have contributed to the sound.

The university used its emergency notification, alert system for the first time since a gunman rampaged the college campus last year, killing over 30 people. The messages went out via the campus’ web homepage, the university’s email and electronic message boards in the classroom. However, the 3n alert system failed to deliver messages to non-university email, text-messages via cell-phones and voice mails.

Later, campus police found out that the gunfire-like sounds came from a nail gun, which had echoed between two buildings.

“We are deeply disappointed in the performance of the 3n service, and have asked them to, at a minimum, to find out the cause of problem, and to rectify it so that our community can be assured that the 3n service, and supports our VT Alerts system, will be reliable and available should we ever need it again,” said Mark Owczarski, the director of news and information, university relations at Virginia Tech.


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