False message sent through alert system
UPDATED: SEPT. 28 AT 9:06 P.M.
Campus Safety sent out a message through the Emergency Notification System at approximately 3:58 p.m. on Sept. 26 which read, “(M) with gun library. Stay away. Shelter inside-lock doors/windows. Campus Safety/other agencies handling the situation.” This notice was then retracted at approximately 4:02 p.m. with a second message that read, “Please disregard last message ‘(M) with a gun safety alert’. Campus is safe. There is no threat at this time.” Campus Safety has confirmed the original message was false.
People were reported running from the library shortly after the text was sent out. Junior elementary education major Anjelica Amezquita described the scene from where she sat at Heritage Cafe, as people started fleeing towards the Office of the Registrar.
“I was with a friend and we were like, ‘Is this real? Is this not real?” Amezquita said. “We all started like packing up our stuff and we started running … people [at the registrar's office] were standing outside waving people like, ‘Just come hide in here’ so that's where we went. And we’re yelling ‘Everyone get inside, there's a gunman here.’ So there's just tons of people running, different directions.”
Students gathered in the cubicles of the registrar’s office for approximately 10 minutes before responding to the second text. The text was unclear, according to Amezquita, creating confusion among the students and faculty.
“No one wanted to leave… It was too quick, we just didn’t think it would make sense. So no one wanted to go back to the library. So I left but we were still a little unsure,” Amezquita said. “Definitely think there's a lesson to be learned here. I think [Campus Safety] could be a little more organized. I just think [the second message] was very unclear, so it made us feel not very safe.”
After sending out the second message, Campus Safety also sent officers to the library to notify students inside of the false message.
“The library was what was indicated in the message, so in addition to sending out the retraction immediately, we also sent out officers over to the library who walked through and let people know that there wasn’t any situation going on, that the message had been sent in error,” said Justin Shelby, Campus Safety’s public information officer, in a phone interview.
Campus Safety sent a follow-up email at 5:32 p.m. saying the original notification was sent to the entire Biola community as a mistake in the testing of the Emergency Notification System.
“Campus Safety was conducting some testing of the emergency notification system, we do these internal tests at least 25 times a month so testing we do quite frequently but unfortunately one of the test messages was mistakenly sent to the entire community,” Shelby said in a phone interview.
In the email, Chief John Ojeisekhoba of Campus Safety clearly indicated the message was a test and in error.
“While testing the emergency notification system a message was sent IN ERROR to the campus community indicating that there was a situation at the library involving a gun. This error occurred at a very unfortunate time in light of recent events around the country,” Ojeisekhoba said in the follow-up email.
Senior English major Carly Evans felt terrified, shocked and confused in her Sutherland classroom. Though the class moved into action quickly to close the blinds, lock the door and sit in the corner, Evans was frustrated to realize the message was an error because of how scary the situation felt.
“I was a little mad [when I found out it was a false alarm]...it’s a little scary that [the error] happened like that cause I can imagine for people actually in the library how terrifying that could be,” Evans said. “I was thinking in my head ‘OK, what happens if someone comes to the door? What are we going to do?’”
Ultimately, Ojeisekhoba stated he takes full responsibility for the incident. For the time being, Campus Safety will consult with Information Technology to improve their Emergency Notification System.
“The fault lies with me. I’m the chief. It stops with me. I take full responsibility for this and we will do better. It sucks knowing that students were impacted negatively by this error. I definitely don’t want to go through this again. Definitely don’t want students to go through this again,” Ojeisekhoba said.