3 Times Emergency Notification Systems Failed In Schools

In today’s rapidly evolving world, ensuring the safety of students has become the number one priority for school leaders. In recent years, schools have tightened security measures to protect their community such as hiring more school resource officers (SROs), installing metal detectors and implementing new school safety plans.  

For example, in 2007, only 43 percent of schools reported having instant notification systems, but according to data from the Pew Research Center, that number is up to 70 percent as of 2022These systems, designed to rapidly disseminate critical information during crises, hold the potential to be lifesavers.  

While the importance of these emergency notification systems cannot be overstated, there's a sobering reality that often goes unspoken: sometimes, they fail. In this blog, we delve into three unsettling instances when emergency notification systems fell short, putting school communities in danger.  

“We have admissions data from thousands of students” 

In May of 2023, Bluefield University learned the hard way that their emergency notification system was hacked when a message was sent out to all students and staff reading, “We have admissions data from thousands of students. Your personal information is at risk to be leaked on a dark web blog. If we don’t receive payment, full data leak will be published!!”  

The hackers continued sending messages throughout the next few hours, even emailing individual students with threats. All students at the school received additional messages saying “DO NOT ALLOW the university to lie about the severity of the attack! As proof, we leak sample, Monday 1 May 2023” followed by a file where students could download sample information. All staff received messages asking them to “share this information with local media” and promising to release sensitive information. 

While this instance, fortunately, didn’t lead to any violence or the delay of necessary help to an emergency, the event does show how instant notification systems are vulnerable to ransom attacks.  

The hijacking of the university’s system also reveals a new weak spot in school emergency response: the disabling or hacking of a notification system during an emergency could have catastrophic consequences for a school community.  


“Police are responding to reports of a ____ at ____ location” 

In April of 2023, students and parents criticized Northwestern University when the school failed to alert students of a shooting near campus until more than 30 minutes after it happened—and then followed up the alert with a generic and broken phone call 

The robocall students received almost an hour and a half after the shooting announced, “Police are responding to reports of a [blank] at [blank] location.”  

Again, while this incident didn’t lead to any student injuries or worse, it easily could have. No technology has a 100% success rate, but in the face of an emergency when precious seconds matter, a late notification could endanger the whole school and surrounding community.  


“If the alert had just reached more teachers sooner” 

Poor wi-fi may have been the culprit behind an ineffective attempt at triggering an emergency notification before the Uvalde school shooting last year.  

“If the alert had reached more teachers sooner, it is likely that more could have been done to protect them and their students,” concluded a special report from the state of Texas.  

While the emergency notification system used in Uvalde did work as intended in at least one instance, poor internet connection caused the delay of some critical reports minutes before the gunman entered the school. This tragic instance reminds us how critical a reliable emergency notification system is, and what can happen if communications are delayed.  


Why Schools Choose Kokomo 24/7® 

Kokomo24/7® is a leader in compliance and risk management solutions for all things health and safety. Founded in 2018, Kokomo24/7® has a significant track record across Fortune 1000 companies as well as public-sector clients like the Los Angeles Unified School District and Chicago Public Schools. Ask us about the time we helped host the Oscars!  

Kokomo NOTIFY™ allows organizations to send personalized email, text, and voice messages before, during, or after an emergency. Our fast and effective notifications are designed to help save lives during emergencies. Our capabilities include: 

  • Deploy one-click notifications to all users, a subset of users, or users fulfilling a specific check-in status 
  • Utilize an optional emergency alert button to trigger two-way communication 
  • Quickly find out who is safe and who needs attention during an event with the "A-OK" feature 
  • Save critical time by using pre-configured alerts to send out during emergencies 


Don’t just take our word for it. Schedule a demo today to find out how your school can get the same software trusted by the University of Michigan, the Los Angeles Unified School District and Chicago Public Schools.  

Whether you work for a small school, a big-city public district, or any institution in between, we want to hear from you.   

To learn more about Kokomo24/7® or to get a free 15-minute demo click the button below. 

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