Not only is this not the first time the government has screwed up a warning system, but it hasn’t even been a month since that last major screw up prompted widespread fear.
A “misleading tsunami warning” test alert caused a panic when it was sent to the smartphones of thousands of people across the United States early Tuesday morning. The test message was issued in cities from New York to Texas by the National Tsunami Warning Center and Accuweather.
The problem, however, stemmed from the fact that the “test” wasn’t clearly labeled as a “test warning” in the notification. Many people who checked their phones upon waking up took to social media in a confused panic, worried that a tsunami was going to strike at any moment. But this is far from the first time the government has proven themselves incompetent when administering warnings of any type or magnitude.
Within about 30 minutes of the initial warning, though, National Weather Service Twitter accounts across the country issued alerts to ensure the public that the initial warning was just a test. And NWS New Orleans promptly told people not to panic.
— NWS New Orleans (@NWSNewOrleans) February 6, 2018
“We have been notified that some users received this test message as an actual tsunami warning,” the NWS in Caribou, Maine, tweeted at around 9 am.
“A tsunami warning is not in effect. Repeat, a tsunami warning is not in effect.” Accounts in cities such as New York, Tampa, New Orleans, Charleston, and Houston quickly followed suit. AccuWeather also issued a tweet that covered all of the Eastern Seaboard, ensuring that the warning was just a test. “The National Weather Service Tsunami Warning this morning was a TEST. No Tsunami warning is in effect for the East Coast of the US,” the tweet read.
But, what really got people worried, was that many of those accounts also wrote “please retweet” in their messages. That alone prompted others to believe that the warnings were real. But it also led some to the conclusion that the government was desperate to rectify the misleading tweets and maintain any sort of trust with the public. Others thought it was simply a quick way to prevent any further confusion or panic. Unfortunately, the social media message clarifying the situation was a little too late…
“I’m 2 old to be getting a false #tsunami warning alert on my phone,’ one Twitter user wrote at the conclusion of the ordeal. When I tell you my legs turned to jelly, I hyperventilated and almost passed out? Child please. Getting any type of work done is cancelled. I need to go home to recuperate cuz I’m not built for this kinda s***.'” –The Daily Mail
The warning also had some wondering if there is an issue with the warning alert system in the United States. Afterall, a false ballistic missile warning was sent to the smartphones of people in Hawaii last month. “First a fake missile launch warning in Hawaii and now a fake tsunami warning on the east coast? Somebody is hacking into the american warning systems,” one Twitter user wrote.
Major panic was caused on January 13, 2018, when a false nuclear missile alert was sent to all smartphones in Hawaii. The US official apparently sent out the message during a state-wide test because he genuinely believed they were under attack. “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” the alert read. It took the state 38 minutes to become aware of the blunder and issue a redaction.
But the Japanese have also epically failed to provide accurate tests and warnings to the public.