As a suspected gunman walked across Towson University, officials sent an emergency notification through text alert, email and Twitter to some 25,000 students and faculty, warning them of the man's whereabouts and advising them to "stay in a safe location."
The situation ended peacefully. The "gunman" was a student carrying a theater prop — a university spokeswoman called the incident "much ado about nothing." But until the circumstances were cleared up, the alert had the campus community on edge.
That incident, late last year, has been followed by other instances — most recently, last month at the University of Baltimore — in which university officials have alerted students to danger nearby.
Since 1990, federal law has required colleges and universities to issue timely emergency notifications. And universities have boosted efforts to sound the alarm about dangerous situations as evolving technology such as text, Twitter, Facebook and email has sped the pace of emergency disclosure.