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K-State Today

March 3, 2021

March 2 K-State Alerts system warnings, test explained

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

During the March 2 statewide tornado drill, a communication error occurred within the automated national warning system, resulting in an unclear message being distributed both via Wireless Emergency Alerts and the K-State Alerts system. 

When the National Weather Service forecast offices in Kansas and Missouri issued the test tornado warning at 10 a.m., the Wireless Emergency Alerts system mistakenly pushed out a warning to all WEA-enabled cell phones without the phrase "THIS IS A TEST" included. Similarly, because the K-State Alerts system is automated to push out tornado warning information, this same message was also sent to those individuals who are signed up to receive K-State Alerts. Unfortunately, the wording of Wireless Emergency Alerts is beyond our control. This error has revealed a vulnerability in the system that will need to be addressed by the National Weather Service and Federal Communications Commission. 

At the same time as the misleading tornado warnings were being disseminated, K-State Alerts users should have received a planned message stating: "K-State Alerts: This is a test of the K-State Emergency Notification System." This was the original planned message and was intended to be the only K-State alert received March 2. 

While errors like this create frustration and confusion, they can also serve as an impetus to improve our collective and individual preparedness. Ensuring that you keep track of the weather forecast, know where you would go in the event of a tornado, and have more than one way to receive warning information are all critical steps to take before a storm or tornado threatens K-State.