But Montgomery County police and officials at Montgomery College said there was never a threat. Marcus Rosano, a spokesman for Montgomery College, called it a “false alarm.”
The alert caused panic, confusion and frustration online as people tried to determine whether it was real. Officials said the message was sent to about 46,200 people, including those who are signed up for text message alerts and follow the college on Facebook and Twitter.
The tweet was removed about 25 minutes later. At 8:11 a.m., a new tweet was posted that read: “There is NO THREAT. The ‘active shooter’ message was sent in ERROR. There is NO THREAT. We apologize for the erroneous message.”
Rosano said an initial investigation found that the message was “sent erroneously.”
“It was human error,” he said. “It was an honest mistake.”
He said the college’s Office of Public Safety was doing testing while practicing on the college’s alert messaging system when the false message was sent.
“We need to do better,” Rosano said. “We need to train more.”
He said college officials take safety seriously and worry that a mistake “could jeopardize the way our students feel when they come to campus.”
In the event of a real emergency, he said, “we want people to understand this is serious business, and it’s a real alert.”
In August, a similar error occurred at George Mason University after a message about “a person with a weapon” warned people to “run, hide or fight,” before another message went out saying it was a false alarm.
Officials later said the message was “inadvertently sent by a software vendor” that handles the university’s emergency notification system.