A hoax text message was sent out to several students on Wednesday night directing them to calmly evacuate buildings because of an emergency on campus.
ACU Police Chief Jimmy Ellison said the message was initially sent as an alert to students at the Lone Star College campuses in Houston because of a gas leakage. The message was later sent out to students at several different universities across the nation, including Baylor, Harding, University of Texas at Austin and Texas State.
When the message was brought to their attention, ACUPD officers immediately began to check if it was a hoax or a hacking of their alert system and software. However, after investigating this possibility, they determined it was an outside message that reached specific students on campus. Minutes later, police sent an alert message asking students to disregard the text.
“Many students are receiving a hoax text message,” the message said. “THERE IS NO EMERGENCY ON CAMPUS. The messages are not from ACUPD.”
Ellison said the message has no connection to ACUPD.
“The message that went out was not related to ACU alert system or the software used for the system,” Ellison said, “and we really want to make that clear to our students”.
Other universities, like Harding had similar experiences with the hoax. Craig Russell, director of public safety at Harding, and Jana Rucker, vice president for communication and marketing, said their department started receiving phone calls related to the message around 8:45 p.m. After contacting administrators, an official alert was sent to clear up the confusion via email, Twitter and Pipeline, Harding’s alert system.
“Communication with our students was of the highest priority and we really tried to get the information out as soon as possible,” said Russell.
Ellison said any message from ACUPD will always be headed with ACUPD at the top “to ensure it comes directly from us.”