False Emergency Test Alert Leads to Confusion in N.J.

Verizon sent the alert to customers in three counties, warning of a "civil emergency" & telling people to "take shelter now"


 
 

DAVID PORTER | | Tuesday, December 13, 2011


NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Not quite the "War Of The Worlds" broadcast of a Martian invasion in New Jersey, a Verizon "emergency" alert Monday that the company texted to its wireless customers still jangled some nerves and triggered hundreds of calls from concerned residents to local and state offices.

The company sent the alert to customers in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties, warning of a "civil emergency" and telling people to "take shelter now." Trouble was, the message was meant to be a test but it wasn't labeled as such, Verizon later admitted.

Within about 90 minutes, the state homeland security and emergency management offices posted on Twitter that no emergency existed, but by then people had called a variety of local, county and state agencies to express their concerns.

In Monmouth County, the number of calls to the county 911 call center doubled between noon and 1 p.m. to more than 170, compared to the same time last week, Cynthia Scott, a county sheriff's department spokeswoman, said.

"It was more concern than panic," Scott said. "We had people calling who had a lot of questions."

New Jersey State Police also fielded calls, as did numerous public offices in Ocean County.

"It seemed like calls went to any agency that had a listed phone number," said Lt. Keith Klements, division commander for the county sheriff's office.

The reaction wasn't as extreme as the panic touched off by Orson Welles' 1938 "War Of The Worlds" radio broadcast of a fake Martian invasion in Grovers Mill, N.J. Many people believed the broadcast was a real emergency announcement. But for a short while Monday, the alert started a chain reaction across a wide swath of central New Jersey.

"We were getting reports from individuals but not from any of our people out in the field," Klements said. "And no one was saying it was coming from a specific source. But we have to take it seriously, so we immediately checked with the state."

A spokesman for the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness didn't immediately return a phone message.

In an email, a Verizon spokesman said the company apologized for any inconvenience or concern that the message caused. The company didn't say why the message was sent without being labeled as a test or whether Monday's incident was the first time such a mistake had occurred.



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, emergency test alert

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

The Evolution of Civilian High Threat Medical Guidelines

How mass killing events have proven a need for new guidelines.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Baltimore Man Rescued from Building Collapse

Rowhouse collapse traps a worker in the basement area.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

A Night with Wisconsin’s Busiest Medic Unit

Ride along one night with the paramedics of MED 5.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Patient Dies in West Virginia Ambulance Rollover

Marion County Rescue Squad crew is injured in collision.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Rescue Volunteers in Syria

White Helmets group at work during fighting.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Boulder Pins Colorado Hiker

Wilderness EMS team frees trapped hiker.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

North Dakota Oilfield Medics

Tactics used in offshore platforms tailored to the remote areas.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


More Product Videos >