This is only a test.
Those five words are all it would’ve taken to prevent the CSU students that received an e-mail from the CSU Police Department from searching the skies to the west of Fort Collins on a cloudless day for a tornado that wasn’t coming.
About 20 minutes after the message was sent, according to CSUPD Chief Dexter Yarbrough, a second apologetic message was sent indicating that there was no tornado preparing to tear through campus and that the first message was just a test.
What was not initially clear, however, was what exactly was being tested.
We now know the initial e-mail was intended as a test run of an internal university alert system and was never intended for students’ eyes. If this is true, the listserve for students should never have been added as a recipient for the message.
Further, since this e-mail was merely a test of the system and was not intended as a drill requiring action by the recipients, it is unclear as to why the author felt it necessary to invent a specific threat that could merit response.
Should anyone have responded only to find that there was indeed no emergency, it’s likely that the next time they would not take the threat as seriously. And that could be a serious problem.
Next time, we suggest that CSUPD show a little more prudence and ensure that a) the intended addressee is actually the recipient and b) that if it is indeed a test, it is clearly labeled before telling us campus is in danger.