A test of the emergency alert system was conducted early on Thursday, and many Floridians awoke to a shrieking siren at around 4:45 a.m.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management, which organizes and controls alert systems for situations like hurricanes and other disasters, issued a statement expressing regret for the notifications.
Alecia Collins, an agency spokeswoman, wrote in an email that the division “understands that unexpected 4:45 a.m. wake-up calls are frustrating and would like to apologize for the early morning text.”
Every month, she added, “we test emergency alerts across a range of media, including radio, television, and text alerts.” This specific message was meant to appear on TV and not disturb anyone who was already asleep.
On Thursday, the alarms roused some Floridians from their beds, and in households with numerous cellphones, the sounds produced a raucous early-morning clamor.
Florida residents protested about the message on social media and published images of the notification on their phone screens, which stated: “This is a TEST of the Emergency message System. No action is necessary.
Southeast Florida’s St. Lucie County officials claimed on Twitter that “every wireless subscriber” in the state had received the notice. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that Florida has more than 22.8 million wireless subscribers in 2021.
The emergency management organization, according to Ms. Collins, “was taking the appropriate action to remove the company responsible for submitting the alert this morning.” She didn’t say which business was at fault.
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On Twitter, the agency was told by the governor to “bring swift accountability for the emergency alert system test in the wee hours of the morning.”
He continued, “This was an entirely inappropriate use of this system.”
Some users on social media who heard the booming alarms offered instructions on how to stop receiving these warnings, but Florida’s emergency management division warned people not to do so because the alerts are crucial for public safety.
Although the Tampa Bay National Weather Service agreed that the notifications were “inconvenient,” it “strongly” discouraged people from turning them off because they would miss weather warnings “that may mean the difference between life and death.”
While nations like Britain are just now embracing the technology, the United States has been sending emergency notifications to mobile phones for more than ten years.
Sunday marks the first statewide test of Britain’s new system, and a significant national campaign has been launched to ensure that the public is ready for both the test and any upcoming alerts that may be issued in the event of extreme weather, such as flooding and fires.
The Florida error was not the first time a cellphone emergency alert test had gone wrong.
In January 2018, Hawaii residents were sent a false alarm about an approaching ballistic missile, and it took the authorities around 38 minutes to issue a second alert clarifying the previous one was a mistake.
According to F.C.C. and Hawaii officials, the fake warning was made by a worker with a long history of subpar performance who believed that the state was actually under attack.
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