TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Good morning, Florida! Early Thursday morning, Florida residents were awoken by a loud alert on their phones.
Across the state, Floridians’ phones sounded off around 4:45 a.m. The loud sound, which is usually associated with an Amber Alert or severe weather, woke millions.
When residents looked at their phones, the screen read: “TEST – This is a TEST of the Emergency Alert System. No action is required.”
While the alert showed that it was simply a test, residents are still wondering why the alert went off so early.
According to the Florida Association of Broadcasters, the test alert is scheduled to occur every other month around 4:50 a.m. However, Florida officials stated that residents were not supposed to get the alert on their cell phones.
On Thursday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management announced that the alert broadcast to phones statewide was an error. The Emergency Test Alert was intended to be broadcast on TV, not on the phones of sleeping citizens.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management said they’re “taking appropriate action to ensure this will never happen again and that only true emergencies are sent as alerts in the middle of the night.”
They issued an additional statement via email on Thursday afternoon:
Emergency alert testing directives originate from the federal government. This morning’s test was supposed to be a test of televised emergency alerts, which the Florida Association of Broadcasters normally schedules for very early in the morning because that is when the fewest people are watching TV (to minimize disruption). Florida contracts with a company called Everbridge to provide the technical coding and instructions required to push out emergency alerts. Everbridge sent the wrong technical specifications for this alert – which ultimately pushed the alert over the Wireless Emergency Alert system (cellphones).
Good government identifies errors, corrects them expediently, and holds people accountable when appropriate. The Division recognizes that this error was unacceptably disruptive and will correct it.
Nonetheless, the Division stresses the importance of being able to receive emergency alerts as disasters can happen at any time and these alerts save lives. Please do maintain emergency alert notifications on your cellular device – we will ensure they are used appropriately henceforth.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also commented on the mistake. In a tweet, DeSantis said he’s ordered the Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie to bring “swift accountability” for the alert that went off in the “wee hours of the morning.”
No longer want to receive these alerts? Here are step-by-step instructions on how to disable the Test Alert feature. However, it should be noted that some residents who had Test Alert notifications turned off still received the alert. When it comes to breaking news, severe weather, or Amber alerts, authorities advise not to disable these features as they could be critical and life-saving notifications.
Tap the Settings app to open it, then tap Notifications. Users need to scroll to the bottom of the screen and find the section that says “Government Alerts.” From there, move the sliders to off/white. Once off, users will no longer receive Amber, Emergency, Public Safety, or Test Alerts.
On an Android device, open Settings, then tap Notifications. Find “Wireless emergency alerts” and select the alerts you want to receive.