COMMENTARY: Text alert glitch was a human error, but correct nonetheless

Howard Bailey & Robert L. Deane

Following the earthquake drill on Thursday, Feb. 7, we initially reported that a system glitch was to blame for the conflicting messages that were sent via our emergency text alert system. Upon a more thorough review we now know that is not the case and that human error on the part of the WKU PD was to blame. Specifically, the person sending the message was not fully versed on the system, resulting in the message being sent without indicating that this was a drill.

This has been corrected. Our staff, with the assistance of Information Technology, has undergone additional training on the emergency notification system. Also, additional safeguards are being put into place to assure that emergency messages are correct while still being sent in a timely fashion.

We want to apologize to the campus community for the mistake, the confusion it created and for the embarrassment it caused. We specifically want to apologize to the staff in Information Technology for initially placing blame on a technical glitch. The system performed as it should have and it was our lack of understanding of the system that is to blame.

Fortunately, this was a drill, and as with any exercise, we have used this as a learning experience. We have identified the problem and taken action to fix it.

Some people have taken issue with the instructions included in the message. Keep in mind that earthquakes are not predictable. Therefore, we do not have the luxury of sending a message in advance of an earthquake. In fact, by the time the message is received, the shaking should be over. 

Quoting, the Herald’s source for its editorial (and a good resource), “When the shaking stops, look around to make sure it is safe to move. Then exit the building.” Therefore, the instructions would be correct when the message is received after the earthquake hits. It is difficult to give detailed instructions in the 160 characters of the emergency text, and we are also reviewing our messages to make sure they are as clear as possible.

That is why we encourage everyone to review the disaster information available from our emergency preparedness website, and from sites like Being prepared is your best defense in an emergency.

We will have another chance to test our system on March 5 when we participate in the statewide tornado drill. As we enter severe storms season, please take a moment to learn the locations of tornado shelters in your buildings and to review the appropriate instructions.


—Howard Bailey

Vice President, Student Affairs

—Robert L. Deane

Chief, WKU Police