Run, Hide, Fight: FAU alert panics students, but it was a false alarm.

FORT LAUDERDALE — Run, Hide, Fight. That was the alert Wednesday about an active shooter at Florida Atlantic University’s Fort Lauderdale campus, and it panicked some students. But four minutes later, the school said it was a false alarm.

“Gave me a heart attack. A false alarm for an active shooter smh,” former FAU student Cyrus Smith tweeted. “Giving me a heart attack at 11am. Do better FAU,” someone else tweeted in response.

FAU spokeswoman Lisa Metcalf said in a statement: “There was an unintentional activation of the FAU alert system this morning. The error occurred during a training exercise, and a correction was sent through the FAU alert system minutes later.”

FAU did not answer questions about who at the school can send those alerts or what safeguards are in place to prevent an mistake from happening.

The initial alert, sent by the school at 11:13 a.m., said: “F.A.U ALERT Message 1: H, Ft. Lauderdale, breezeway at 11:32am, 07-14-2021. RUN, HIDE, FIGHT. Avoid the area. Follow police instructions. Visit the F.A.U website for more information.” The subject line of the email version of the alert read, “F.A.U Alert – Hostile Intruder/Active Shooter.”

By 11:16 a.m., three minutes later, the school sent another alert saying the previous one was sent in error: “Unintentional Activation of the FAU Alert system,” it said, in part. “Please disregard any F.A.U Alert messages received at 11:14 a.m. on 07-14-2021. F.A.U apologizes for any inconvenience that this may have caused. Return to normal business.”

”As soon as the alert flashed across my screen my heart sank, and I immediately thought ‘no way this is happening right now,’” said Austen Canonica. He’s a former student and currently works as assistant director of marketing and communications for the graduate college and as an adjunct professor in the college of business.

“I was not so much in shock as I thought ‘it was only a matter of time … now it is our turn for this to happen.’ It almost felt like an inevitability with all of the shootings this country experiences,” he said.

By the time Canonica and his colleagues started looking into what was happening, the second alert came: “It stressed us out, scary moment, but glad it was just a false alarm.”

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”When I first received the alert I was scrolling through Twitter,” Smith, 28, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He follows the school on social media and was terrified by what the alert said.

“My heart dropped. I then checked my phone to see if I missed a call from FAU, but I didn’t receive anything, so immediately thought something really awful is happening or something screwy is going on on their end,” Smith said.

FAU’s main campus is in Boca Raton; it also has campuses in Dania Beach, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Pierce and Jupiter. It’s not clear whether the breezeway in the alert referred to the Fort Lauderdale campus, as the breezeway commonly refers to a main pedestrian artery through the center of the Boca Raton campus. It connects a large dining hall, Starbucks, the bookstore, multiple classroom buildings and more.

There can be hundreds of students in the breezeway at any given time during the fall and spring semesters. However, there are considerably fewer students on campus during the summer.

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