Shots fired on campus false alarm; unintentional message sent from UNCW

Robert Manion and Casey McAnarney

UNC Wilmington’s alert system sent out a message about reported shots fired on campus on the morning of Feb. 21, 2017 only to rescind the message.

At 9:36 a.m., the UNCW Alert system sent out a message to students reading, “Reports of shots fired on main campus. Avoid the area. Take shelter. Wait for all clear. Police responding. Monitor”

Not even ten minutes after the incident occurred, the alert system sent out another message saying that the previous message was “unintentional” and asked students to “please disregard [the previous message].”

In an email from of the Office of University Relations, the university stated that students, faculty and staff should be assured that there is no emergency and that UNCW will be looking into how the “erroneous” alert was issued.

Members of The Seahawk staff noted that in between the first and second message, students all over campus were shuffled inside.

Assistant Layout Editor Kinnamon Hunt noted that students in the Campus Recreational Center were pulled into the locker rooms and Layout Editor Casey Auch said that the library was shut down.

In the latest statement issued by UNCW, Executive Officer of the OUR Janine Iamunno said, “The university deeply regrets this false alarm, which was caused by user error during a routine campus training session. Campus officials immediately began to investigate how this error occurred in an effort to prevent it from reoccurring.”

Iamunno can assure students, staff and faculty that there were no “external interferences” like hacking.

At a question and answer session at the OUR offices, UNCW Police Chief M. Donaldson emphasized that for concerned students, their department hosts two open training sessions per month. It was a systemic computer error, he stressed, and emphasized that it was one of the many unintended consequences of their use of “technology.”

What was intended was “a mock sending of the message,” but, due to the mistake, it got out to the 18-20,000 student contacts in the system. The department wants to maintain community confidence, Donaldson said.

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