McConnell: Cougar Alert mix-up during CofC bomb threat 'unacceptable'

VIDEO: McConnell responds to student complaints after CofC bomb scare
Glenn McConnell (Source: College of Charleston)
Glenn McConnell (Source: College of Charleston)
Several buildings and streets were closed as police and the bomb squad investigated a bomb threat on campus Tuesday.
Several buildings and streets were closed as police and the bomb squad investigated a bomb threat on campus Tuesday.

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell said the mix-up that led an automated notification system to erroneously notify the CofC community a bomb had been found on campus Tuesday morning was unacceptable.

"You saw the communique. There was no bomb found here and it should have never gotten out and it did and it`s wrong for me in any way to diminish the fact that occurred," McConnell said Wednesday.

McConnell said three versions of the alert went out: a voicemail, an email and a text alert. Only the voicemail, McConnell says, was correct. He said he and his staff are working to correct it.

"The message that came out, one came out saying 'bomb threat,'" McConnell said. "Two of them had 'bomb found' and we just can't accept that. So, the question here is to find out exactly what happened, how do we fix it, and is there a better system for us?"

McConnell also defended a decision against canceling classes, saying only part of the campus was on lockdown because of the threat.

Late Tuesday afternoon, McConnell acknowledged the system's "less than effective" performance during Tuesday's bomb threat on campus in a letter to the CofC community. In that message, he blamed the problem on a "glitch" that had been programmed years ago which caused CofC's communications protocols to be compromised.

"Also, the mechanisms for communicating quickly through the Cougar Alert system -- by phone, text and email -- did not reach all constituents," McConnell said in the letter. "Plain and simple, that is unacceptable, and I will work with our emergency management task force to address it immediately."

"Our first and foremost priority at this institution is for our students' and College community's safety," McConnell continued. "While we may hope something like today is never repeated, we must be better prepared in dealing with it. And I assure you that we will."

Shortly after 11 a.m. on Tuesday, students received a Cougar Alert that read in part, "A bomb has been found on the College of Charleston campus. If you are on campus, prepare immediately for possible evacuation. If you are not in the area, stay away. Listen for instructions from college officials or local authorities and follow them quickly and carefully." At 11:07 a.m., the same message was posted to the college's Facebook page, but was then taken down approximately 15 to 20 minutes later.

Six campus buildings were evacuated and three of them were searched by police and the bomb squad.

Shortly before 5 p.m., after the campus was thrown into chaos, area streets were shut down and nearby businesses were forced to close for the day, police cleared the scene, announcing no bomb was found.

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