September 27, 2012

UAB causes confusion with emergency test shooting

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Written by: Mitchell Miller

It was a normal Thursday evening on the campus of UAB.  Traffic was terrible, parking didn’t exist, and classes were too long.

EXCEPT there was a shooting!

Not a real shooting, mind you…but a fake shooting scenario played out through UAB’s B-Alert Emergency Management System.

Here are how things played out:

First message








An initial text/e-mail is sent out to the masses.  The masses include current students, former students, employees, parents, and whoever else signed up for B-Alert.   You can clearly see that the word test and drill are used at least once in both the subject header and the body of the message.  This doesn’t matter.  A lot of people freak out, regardless.

That leads people to go to the website linked in the message:  However, the large amount of simultaneous and continuous traffic causes UAB’s website to go down.  People who are visiting the site for more information get a blank page, which isn’t comforting.

Second message












UAB B-Alert sends out a second message, again stating that it is a test (THIS IS TEST!) but also increasing the storyline of the test.  Now there’s a suspect in custody…yet that suspect is searching the building?

Final message:







The final message could have just said, “The test is now complete…please disregard all previous texts.  Sorry for any confusion, this will make our campus safer.”  Instead, it proclaims loudly that this is a test, but then introduces a third element of the story.  Everything is clear, so that’s good.  “Victim is okay”?  That’s even better.  So what they are saying is…there was only one victim of this shooting?  What does “okay” mean?  Stable?  They walked home?  If they are “okay”, then what was all the fuss about?  I for one am waiting on the “Emergency Test” UAB Police Chief press conference so we can find out more details on our test shooter and our test victim.

What we learned

What’s the point of a test?  To see how much we’ve learned.  So let’s review a couple of the things we learned today:

1.  UAB B-Alert Communications Staff need required writing classes.

Seriously.  These are some of the most hacked up messages I’ve read since texting was first invented…and that includes the junk seen everyday on Twitter.  Is this what UAB has become?  That leads me to the next thing…

2. UAB needs to buff up their reading comprehension admission standards.

I can understand some of the confusion simply because the alerts were so poorly constructed…but really?  It says “test” multiple times.  I’m not sure why the test had to keep going (which I suppose added to the confusion), but I’m sure it was necessary.  Most students were probably hoping that UAB would cancel classes to add to the authenticity of the test scenario.  UAB didn’t cancel any classes…which is completely accurate.  UAB doesn’t cancel class for ANYTHING.

3. UAB needs to work on their website capacity.

One of the major causes for concern during this entire situation was the fact that when concerned individuals followed the provided web address to get more information…they were presented with a website that was down.  If anything, this test will hopefully show UAB how much their web servers can handle at a given time in case an ACTUAL emergency shooting were to occur.


About the Author

Mitchell Miller
Mitchell is the founder and director of Most of his work takes place behind the scenes as a producer and editor. He handles most of the video/audio work as well as developing new programming for the site. He recently took on the challenge of upgrading the website to the current format you see today. Mitchell also currently serves as the primary men's basketball and special interest reporter for and has been a featured guest on a variety of other media outlets (including 97.3 The Zone in Birmingham, AL).

  • Joseph Blake

    One reason the messages appear hacked up is 1) message length restrictions and 2) this was a drill, some of the messages are automated (IE: someone whacks a big ‘SHOOTER SCENARIO” button and stuff gets triggered) but they have to add in the stuff about it being a test into those predefined, non-test messages

    • Mitchell Miller

      THIS IS TEST!  EMERGENCY CONTINUES!  Apparently UAB B-Alert is based off a badly translated Metal Gear Solid game.