Sirens, Phones Sound Erroneous Alert in California

Friday, 27 Jun 2014 10:24 PM

 

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People in San Luis Obispo County received a series of unsettling, erroneous emergency alerts Friday as repairs were being made to a nuclear power plant's siren system, including a vague cellphone message that told them to "prepare for action."

The chain of mistaken alerts began arousing confusion and fear when a siren that's part of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant's warning system began wailing Friday afternoon for no apparent reason, county emergency services manager Ron Alsop said.

Earlier in the day, crews had upgraded the siren as part of a summer-long revamp of the emergency system by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

To indicate there was no emergency, county officials issued an alert.

"Unbeknownst to us, with a new emergency alert system, it also triggered the new wireless alert cellphone system," Alsop said.

Across the county, people's cellphones buzzed with a special tone and a vague message that said there was a "civil emergency in this area" and people should "prepare for action."

The warning halted wine tasting at the Saucelito Canyon Vineyard & Winery in San Luis Obispo, manager Katherine Taylor said.

"I had 15 people here, looking at their phones and asking what to do," she said.

Nisse Noble, 27, was at her online apparel company's office when she received the message. The vague warning was "unsettling," leading her to think there was a mass shooting, a nuclear accident or a criminal at large in the area, she said.

"We didn't know where we should turn or what we should prepare for," Noble said.

When county officials realized the gaffe, they issued a final message stating that there was no cause for alarm.

"We're just glad we learned this before we had an actual emergency," Alsop said.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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