At that time, the first of seven text and email alerts went out to Indiana Wesleyan University students, warning them of a severe thunderstorm and dangerous conditions to come.
Sixteen minutes later, a far less common IWU alert reached students’ iPhones and laptops: The campus was on lockdown.
“A campus wide lock down has been mandated for the CAS campus,” the text and email proclaimed, not mentioning the weather. “Please remain indoors and lock all windows and doors until further notice.”
According to IWU Director of Campus Police Mario Rangel, the alert system sends most of the messages automatically when it detects severe weather in Grant County. However, the message to go on lockdown came from the county dispatch when Rangel was unable to send a more tailored alert himself.
“The lockdown was a mistake,” Rangel said, calling it a “miscommunication” between IWU and the Grant County dispatch.
Three minutes after the lockdown alert, students received another message saying a tornado warning had been issued for Grant County, prompting students to go to “the nearest Shelter-in-Place area.”
Two more lockdown alerts identical to the first one found students’ phones before alert No. 6 came at 3:55 p.m. clarifying the “Lockdown is in effect for Marion Campus due to severe weather. Seek Shelter and await futher (sic) instructions.”
Those instructions came at 5:23 p.m. in the form of an all-clear, which Rangel explained he sends in these situations after checking with the radar and police officers on patrol.
Although not much came from Sunday’s severe weather episode on campus, Rangel still said he wanted to use the experience to enhance the emergency notification process.
“Every time we have a thunderstorm or alert, I learn about the system and we improve it,” Rangel said. “I think we responded well, and at the end of the day no one here was injured, so that’s a success to me.
Rangel held a meeting with resident directors on Tuesday to go over the process and discuss areas to improve.