Thousands of cellphone users in Kentucky were surprised to receive an “emergency alert” from the federal government warning them to “prepare for action,” a message local authorities later blamed on “human error” during testing.
The alert, which was was sent out to people in the Corbin and London areas of Southern Kentucky earlier today, came from the Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort via the Federal Communication Commission’s Wireless Emergency Alert system.
The messages are designed to warn local residents of immediate safety threats in their area, but some have criticized the “government alerts” as being invasive.
Frankfort Emergency Operations spokesman Buddy Rogers said that the alert was mistakenly sent out “during testing” and was the result of “a computer error, followed by a human error.”
Back in 2011, the FCC began to roll out emergency government alerts to cellphone users in major cities before the program was made mandatory on all new smartphones. Although a user can opt out of some of the alerts, presidential messages direct from the White House cannot be turned off.
This is not the first time that erroneous messages sent out via the government’s emergency alert system have caused consternation.
Early tests of the cellphone emergency alert system in New Jersey caused panic after Verizon customers received text messages warning them that a “civil emergency” was in progress and to “take shelter,” prompting alarmed citizens to flood 911 lines with anxious calls.
Verizon Wireless later apologized to its customers for causing alarm, admitting that the confusion was caused by a “test” of the PLAN emergency alert system.
Back in October we also reported on how television viewers in several different states were interrupted by an emergency alert from the White House warning them to stand by for an emergency message and not to use their phones.
AT&T subsequently blamed a nationally syndicated radio station for triggering the alert message, although this explanation was questioned by some given that only the federal government has the capability of sending out EAS alerts.