Early Saturday morning, there was a report of a possible shooting at 33rd and Burt Streets, just west of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. As a result, the CU's emergency notification system, CUAlert system, sent out voice, email, and text messages concerning the incident about 0400 CDT, a story in the Omaha-World Herald reported yesterday.
However, the automated telephone alert message not only reached those who are on the CUAlert notification list, but also random people across the US, who were puzzled and a bit annoyed at being called so early in the morning.
Then, at 0500 CDT, the CUAlert system sent out a follow-on message to the same people saying the police had the situation in hand.
CU's public safety office was soon flooded with calls wanting to know what was going on. No estimate has been given as to how many people were erroneously called.
University officials are perplexed as to what happened. A CU spokesperson summed it up this way:
"Technology isn't perfect."
The Omaha-World Herald reports that CU uses an outside vendor for its alert system, but the university declined to disclose who it is.
The CU spokesperson also apologized for "any inconvenience."
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.