False alarm earthquake text alert due to system error

A false alarm of an earthquake shook up WKU’s campus Thursday morning.

“Emergency! There has been an earthquake on campus. Exit buildings and stay at a safe distance. Follow instruction from authorities,” the text alert said.

People in some WKU buildings did just that, including Burkesville freshman Kimberly Spears.

“The teacher asked us to follow the instructions of the text message,” she said.

Spears was later instructed to return to class, she said.

Lexington freshman Abigail Briggs did not return to class after receiving the message.

“Everyone was just kind of congregated outside of their respective buildings, not knowing really what to do,” she said.

Butler County freshman Serena Chambers was also released from class early.

“Everyone was mad, like why would they do that?” she said. “If they originally said it was just a drill, it would’ve helped people calm their nerves.”

A follow-up message indicating the text was part of a drill soon followed.

“This is only a test,” it said. “This is national earthquake month and this is a drill only. This is only a test.”

WKU Police Chief Robert Deane said the initial message was sent out due to a glitch with systems that are meant to work together, but did not.

He said the glitch occurred when the message was sent out to different systems designed to send out messages via email, text message, Twitter and other means, Deane said.

“We sent out a correct message,” he said. “It was typed in, sent out, didn’t switch over into the other systems, so the system came out as an actual earthquake.”

Lexington freshman Brooke McIntosh

said she was in class when the text was sent, and no one really knew what to do.

“No one thought it was real, but everyone was really confused. It was just a really weird situation,” she said.

Some students went on with their day as usual, despite the false alarm, including Burkesville freshman Branden Young.

“I didn’t feel myself shaking, so I wasn’t too worried about it,” he said. “It was just random.”

Bowling Green freshman Camp Holmes was only slightly inconvenienced.

“I was kind of mad because it woke me up,” he said. “I got up and I looked outside and realized nobody was going outside. I didn’t really act on it too much.”

WKUPD is working to repair the glitch that caused the message to be sent out incorrectly.

“As soon as we caught it, we called IT,” Deane said. “We’re working with them now to try to fix the glitch in the system.”

A backup that will check all of the systems that send out alerts will be used in the interim, Deane said.

Deane also noted that the error was better to have occurred in a test, rather than an actual emergency, calling it “an opportunity to learn.”

“We want to apologize to the university community for upsetting anybody today and having them think there was an actual earthquake,” he said.