FSU tornado alert raises false alarm

An incorrect emergency notification from FSU Alert messaged campus community members Sunday, August 31 that The National Weather Service reported a tornado in the area.

After five minutes, a second message was sent out correcting the mistake.

According to FSU Deputy Chief of police John Santoro, “For whatever reason, the person who sent that [first] message out forgot or missed [the word ‘warning,’] but immediately sent out a correction message.”

Meteorology professor Dave Epstein said, “There wasn’t a tornado, so there was no, in a sense, need for the warning.” He added, “You have to issue the warning because if you don’t issue it and there was a tornado, then there’s a problem.”

Epstein said if one receives a tornado warning for the area, to take shelter. In instance, a funnel cloud was seen in the sky, but the rotation never actually reached the ground.

“A watch occurs [when weather] conditions are favorable for tornadoes,” Epstein added, “[while] a warning means a tornado has been sighted in the area or close enough to the area.” Epstein also explained that the weather service issues a tornado warning depending on “if the radar indicates rotation or if a tornado has been sighted.”

Sophomore early childhood communication major Jennifer Holden, early childhood education “While the alerts are helpful, they are annoying when you get five different phone calls and texts about the same thing and another because there was incorrect information in one.”

Junior communication arts major Christina Hatzopoulos said, “I personally don’t like getting alerts when the situation doesn’t require them. I got three phone calls, texts, and emails for a 20-minute tornado ‘warning.’ “

Mallory Fredericks, a freshman sociology major, said, “I thought the system worked well. There were a ton of alerts [and] messages via cell phone that me and my friends received.”

According to the 2013 Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Crime Statistics/Fire Safety Report and Campus Emergency Handbook, the FSU Alert system can be used to inform students about school closings, public safety/community warnings and additional emergencies.

Santoro said a reasonably high percentage of students received FSU Alerts, but urged those students who do not receive them to sign up through their MyFramingham account, “so they’ll know about any important emergency information that the University wants to send out.”

Jessica Cowgill, a freshman criminology major, believes that the FSU Alert system is “an awesome concept, especially if something more severe were to happen on campus.”

Freshman elementary education major Hannah Deane was reassured by the warning and stated that she “like[s] how the school keeps us updated on those types of things even when it ended up not being a big deal.”

Santoro said, “Keeping people safe, that’s what it’s all about, that’s why we have the system.”

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