Exclusives
FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+RSS Feed
Fire EMSEMS TodayEMS Insider

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

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.



RELATED ARTICLES

Drugs Stolen from Columbus Ambulances

Review finds broken and malfunctioning locks in 13 ambulances.

CDC Calls for Expanding Naloxone Use

Effort could reduce drug overdose deaths and save lives.

Rescue Efforts in Nepal

The latest on the devastating earthquake and the rescue response as the death toll climbs to over 3,700.

Virginia USAR Team Mobilizes for Nepal

Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue team is on the way to quake site.

Global Rescuers Converge on Nepal

Teams and relief agencies respond to earthquake disaster.

Over 2,500 Killed in Nepal Quake

Landslides and aftershocks cause fear in survivors and hinder rescue efforts.

Features by Topic

JEMS Connect

CURRENT DISCUSSIONS

 
 

EMS BLOGS

Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

Featured Careers