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Oklahoma City University's text alert system was plagued by delays during Tuesday's lockdown

Shots were fired near Oklahoma City University on Tuesday evening, and many students, faculty and staff didn't receive a text alert until several hours later. OCU officials say they expect the university's text message warning system to be more effective the next time it's used.
by Silas Allen Published: March 14, 2013

But one of Rush's fraternity brothers received the all-clear message about 1 a.m. Wednesday and then received the original warning message two hours later.

The incident highlighted problems with OCU's text message alert system that university officials had been aware of and are working to address, Hunt said.

About 3,000 OCU employees and students are subscribed to the alert system, Hunt said.

When a large number of messages is sent from a single source all at once, Hunt said, it often resembles the denial-of-service attacks hackers sometimes use to shut down web servers. Mobile phone carriers often limit large volumes of messages to avoid being inundated with phony messages, he said. That can cause delays like the ones many students saw Tuesday evening.

Even before the incident Tuesday, the university was in the process of replacing the system. The new system should deliver text messages instantly, he said. University officials began implementing the system about two weeks ago and expect it to be operational soon.

The email notices reached subscribers instantly, Hunt said. The university also sends out pop-up alerts to anyone using campus computers warning them of emergencies. Officials also rely on word-of-mouth. Once an official alert is sent, word tends to spread quickly, he said.

“If you're here on campus, you know,” Hunt said. “If you're plugged in electronically at all, you get the notification very rapidly.”

by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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