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Human Error Prevented NAU Alert From Reaching Entire Campus After Shooting

Following this morning’s shooting on the Northern Arizona University campus, the NAU Alert system was activated. But due to human error, the initial emergency text message didn’t reach all the intended recipients.

About 700 people received the alert out of the 18,000 who are signed up for the service. That initial message was inadvertently sent to only certain groups instead of the entire list.

“It was a very chaotic scene,” says Marc Burdiss, director of Emergency Management and Preparedness at NAU. “The dispatcher went to send the alert, clicked all the boxes and then hit send, but didn’t click that top one that’s off by itself, which is ‘all users.’ It’s the one we use the least. It’s human error.”   

The error was discovered and another message was sent to all users around 3 a.m. Burdiss says the initial alert did reach building managers. That allowed the residence hall manager of Mountain View, the dorm closest to where the shooting took place, to confirm the threat with police and initiate a lockdown.

Despite the glitch, Burdiss still encourages students, staff and faculty to sign up for NAU Alert online. “By signing up for that,” he says, “you’ll get a text message in the immediate aftermath of an event, as well as the updated information as it’s still relevant to life safety.”  

NAU can also use email alerts and emergency broadcast systems to inform the campus community of threats. 

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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