NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Rutgers University officials sent students into a frenzy when they sent an alarming text Thursday morning about an armed suspect on the New Brunswick campus.
But it turned out to be a safety drill. Now, students are questioning the wording of the text.
At 9:48 a.m. this text was sent out campus-wide: “Armed suspect in area of Alexander Library seek a safe space and shield/secure your location.”
Thirteen minutes later, the university sent a second text: “End training scenario. End training scenario Alexander Library.”
Prior to the second text, some students thought the text was a real situation, causing them to be alarmed and concerned. They told PIX11 News the wording was in poor taste, particularly in light of the recent mass shooting in Orlando.
Some took to social media to vent their anger.
“Really Rutgers nearly had a Heart attack!” Ash tweeted.
“Yeah just fake a shooter on campus with everything going on this week and then say it was just a test. Cool,” Shannon sarcastically wrote.
“#Rutgers emergency alert should have LEAD with the words THIS IS A TEST. Most ppl zone out after they see the words ‘Armed Suspect,'” Donna Auston tweeted.
Auston also spoke to PIX11 News and described her initial reaction to the first text.
“People were panicked it was like oh my god there’s a shooter on my campus,” Auston said.
She said her first thought — her daughter — was also a student at Rutgers.
“My immediate reaction was to locate where she was,” Auston said.
She heard from her daughter and that she was ok, then came a flurry of text messages from friends and colleagues on campus. Everyone re-read the text, reading the fine print this time. “TEST TEST” is written at the bottom of the text. It was all a safety exercise.
“It would’ve been a simple matter to fix it making it very clear in the beginning of the message it was a test,” said Auston.
Rutgers officials said an email was also sent out yesterday notifying the campus of the safety drill.
“A lot of people don’t check those emails in a timely fashion they may not read thoroughly,” said Auston.
By mid-morning university police acknowledged things could’ve been done better. They released a statement to PIX11 News saying:
Earlier today an Emergency Notification message was sent by text message to members of the Rutgers University – New Brunswick Community. This message was part of a planned Emergency Management Exercise and there is no threat to the Rutgers University – New Brunswick. We recognize that the wording of the initial message caused some concern and alarm amongst recipients; however the message was sent only to test the University’s Emergency Notification System (ENS). University Public Safety will be making necessary changes to protocols for future training exercises.