Verizon says 'civil emergency' alert in N.J. was only a test
Posted 12 December 2011 - 10:55 PM
A mass text message warning New Jersey cell phone users of a "civil emergency" was sent out by Verizon Wireless earlier today as part of a "test emergency notification," the telecommunications company said.
In a response statement issued about two hours after the mass text was sent out, alarming some Garden State residents, Verizon Wireless apologized to its customers.
"This test message was not clearly identified as a test," company spokesman David Samberg said in an e-mailed statement to The Star-Ledger. "We apologize for any inconvenience or concern this message may have caused."
The emergency alert was sent out to New Jersey phone users in Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties earlier this afternoon, citing a "civil emergency in this area until 1:24 p.m." and telling residents to "take shelter now."
Local police departments and county authorities said they received a high volume of 911 calls from residents concerned about the alerts and asking whether there was an actual emergency.
In response to the text alert, police in Rumson issued its own alert to citizens in the Monmouth County community: "THERE IS NO EMERGENCY. The 'take shelter' message that Verizon sent IS NOT a VALID message. DO NOT CALL THE POLICE."
"There is no reason to panic here," said Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden. "It is a false text done maliciously today at 12:27 p.m."
The text warning also prompted the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security to issue a special statement on Twitter this afternoon reassuring citizens there was no actual emergency.
The mass text message that residents received stated: "CMAS Alert. Civil Emergency in this area until 1:24 PM EST Take Shelter Now."
CMAS refers to the Commercial Mobile Alert System, a public safety initiative that involves FEMA, the FCC and wireless phone carriers.
Golden said it appeared that residents who are Verizon cell phone customers with Droid-operated phones in Monmouth and Ocean counties and other parts of central New Jersey received the text message at 12:27 p.m. today. He said the number of 911 calls his office received quadrupled around lunchtime today following the text.
Jim Zawistowski, a planner in the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management, said the county received calls from police departments in East Brunswick, Jamesburg, Monroe and South Brunswick, asking if the county was doing "any kind of tests."
"We told them it wasn't us," Zawistowski said, adding that there was nothing from the federal emergency management agency either.
Today's false alarm came just two days after scores of New Jersey residents felt their houses shake
Posted 13 December 2011 - 12:24 AM
Posted 13 December 2011 - 12:56 AM