State emergency officials apologize after pre-dawn phone alert jars Floridians

Floridians received a rude awakening Thursday morning -- literally -- when a test of the...
Floridians received a rude awakening Thursday morning -- literally -- when a test of the emergency alert system was sent to to cellphones at 4:45 a.m.(WWSB-TV)
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 7:00 AM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The Florida Division of Emergency Management issued a mea culpa Thursday morning after jolting perhaps millions of Floridians awake with a pre-dawn test of its emergency alert system.

Floridians received a rude awakening Thursday -- literally -- when the state broadcast the test to cellphones at 4:45 a.m.

“We know a 4:45 AM wake up call isn’t ideal. @FLSERT wants to apologize for the early morning text,” A notice on Twitter said. “Each month, we test #emergencyalerts on a variety of platforms. This alert was supposed to be on TV, and not disturb anyone already sleeping.”

Social media lit up with complaints and memes over the test, with its loud klaxon and message that read “Emergency Alert TEST- -This is a TEST of the emergency Alert System. No action is required.”

According to the Florida Association of Broadcasters’ website, the next early morning television-only test is scheduled June 20.

Also on Twitter, Gov. Ron DeSantis called on Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie to bring “swift accountability” for the test. “This was a completely inappropriate use of this system,” he said.

In an email Thursday afternoon, the Florida Division of Emergency Management blamed a contractor for the error. “Florida contracts with a company called Everbridge to provide the technical coding and instructions required to push out emergency alerts,” it said. “Everbridge sent the wrong technical specifications for this alert – which ultimately pushed the alert over the Wireless Emergency Alert system (cellphones).

The Division recognizes that this error was unacceptably disruptive and will correct it.”