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Scare at U of M shows Alert System Works

Posted on: 5:22 pm, April 16, 2013, by , updated on: 05:26pm, April 16, 2013

(Memphis)  Just a few hours before the Boston marathon blasts, the University of Memphis had a scare of its own.

The bomb squad came out to inspect a suspicious package, which turned out to be a false alarm but it tested the university’s alert system.

The suspicious package found Monday was found on the third floor of a building at university, and while it turned out to be nothing, the police director on campus says the custodian who found it did the right thing by reporting it.

“We want that to be reported so we can go check it out,” said Campus Police Director Bruce Harber.

Harber says suspicious people, cars, things should always be reported, “For example, a box, a bag, a backpack without anyone around it.”

Monday, a box left at the top of stairwell in Dunn hall was reported and it was enough of a concern that Harber sent out an alert to thousands of people on campus and around town.

“My mom signs up for it too and she texted me and she’s like ‘Text me when you are in a safe place!’ Im like “It’s fine mom. It’s ok’,” said Jonathan Jones-Edwards, a student.

Fifteen thousand people got a tiger text, 25,000 got an email alert and every single person on the U of M campus who had a computer on that was linked into the server got the message because of a program called ‘Alertus.’

“And in this case yesterday it indicated that we were evacuating Dunn Hall – to leave the building and stay clear of it,” said Harber.

People could not ignore the alert either.

They had to press “acknowledge” to begin using their computers again.

“We were doing partner work and all of a sudden we look at the screen and it pops up,” said Jones-Edwards.  “It’s like ‘suspicious package’ and I’m like ‘What is going on?”

With the help of Alertus, the texts and emails, Dun Hall was evacuated Monday within minutes.

“The more layers you have, the more means you have to get notifications out, the better off you are,” said Harber.

While the suspicious package turned out only to be a laptop in a box, the incident, falling on the same day as the Boston blasts, showed it’s never a bad idea to report something out of the ordinary.