At around 4:45 a.m. Thursday, many Florida residents were awakened by blaring sirens after an early morning test of the emergency alert system that went off on their phones.
The Florida Department of Emergency Management, which coordinates and manages the warning system for emergencies such as hurricanes and other disasters, apologized for the notifications in a statement.
“The department understands the frustrating unexpected wake-up call at 4:45 a.m. and would like to apologize for the early morning text message,” agency spokeswoman Alecia Collins said in an email.
“Every month, we test emergency alerts on a variety of platforms, including radio, TV and text alerts,” she said. “This particular alert should be broadcast on television and not disturb anyone already asleep.”
The alarms jolted some Floridians out of bed Thursday, creating cacophony in the early morning in homes with multiple cellphones.
St. Lucie County officials in southeastern Florida tweeted The alert was sent to “every wireless subscriber” in the state. More than 22.8 million wireless subscribers in Florida in 2021, According to the Federal Communications Commission.
Ms Collins said the Thursday morning test was supposed to be for TV alerts, which are usually aired early in the morning when viewers are at their lowest to minimize disruption.
She said emergency management agencies “are taking appropriate action to remove the company responsible for filing the alert this morning.”
Ms Collins said Everbridge, a software company contracted by the state government, sent the wrong technical specification for the alert. Everbridge did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
governor ron desantis tweeted He has ordered the agency to “immediately hold accountable for testing of the emergency alert system in the wee hours of the morning”.
“This is a completely inappropriate use of the system,” he added.
The blaring alerts prompted some on social media to explain how to stop receiving the notifications, but Florida’s emergency management department urged people not to turn them off, saying such alerts were important to public safety.
The National Weather Service office in Tampa Bay also acknowledged that the alert was “inconvenient,” but tweeted It “strongly” discourages people from disabling the alarm because it could cause them to miss weather warnings “which could mean the difference between life and death.”
The US has been sending emergency alerts to mobile phones for more than a decade, and countries like the UK are only just adopting the technology.
UK’s first national test The new system is scheduled for Sunday And a wide-ranging national campaign has been launched to ensure people are prepared for tests and future warnings that could be issued for severe weather, including floods and fires.
Florida’s error isn’t the first time a cell phone emergency alert test has gone wrong.
When Hawaiians received a false alert of an incoming ballistic missile in January 2018, it took the state about 38 minutes to sound the alarm, saying the first missile was a mistake. The FCC and Hawaii officials said the false alarm was sent by a long-term underperforming employee who believed there was an actual threat to the state.