Originally launched in January of 1997, the national Emergency Alert System (EAS) was created to replace the Emergency Broadcast System, aimed at simplifying security and safety. And over the years, the EAS, regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has worked to keep the country safe.
But like with all things, there are kinks to work out, and over the years, the EAS has had its fair share of glitches. Whether from human error or a technological standpoint, there have been a handful of times when the EAS has failed, either by alerting citizens when no disaster was present or, on the flip side, failing to do so.
Now, President Donald Trump has made the decision to try out a Presidential alert system called the National Wireless Emergency Alert System that will go directly to cell phones in the case of disaster. The decision to do so comes after an investigation into the EAS and its functionality.
Here are six times that the EAS has sent out false warnings or glitched over the years.
There was a zombie warning shown in Michigan in 2013.
In February of 2013, Michigan residents (and some residents in Montana and New Mexico) were in for quite a surprise when an alert appeared on some TV stations shortly after 8 p.m., claiming a zombie apocalypse was taking place.
According to The Huffington Post, the alert’s audio said, “Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living. Follow the messages on screen that will be updated as information becomes available. Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous.”
Of course, this alert was false. The EAS has been hacked and this hoax message had been broadcast.
In 2016, there was a strange warning about hazardous materials in New York.
In 2016, a strange message was issued by network WKTV in Utica, New York, that left citizens rightfully confused. The EAS message read: “Civil authorities have issued a Hazardous Materials Warning for The United States. Effective until September 29, 02:16 AM EDT. Would you. Could you. On a Train? Wait for further instructions.”
Many quickly released that “Would you. Could you. On a Train?” was from Dr. Seuss’ book “Green Eggs and Ham.” The station was quick to take to social media to say that the alert was false and later, they were found to have been hacked.
Recently, there was a false EAS warning of a ballistic missile in Hawaii.
One of the most well-known errors of the EAS took place in January of 2018. Citizens of Hawaii woke to a false alert delivered to their cell phones claiming that an incoming ballistic missile was going to strike the state. People of Hawaii were in a state of panic after receiving the alert, as was the country as a whole.
However, the alert was false and the FCC claimed it was just a human error. According to the New York Times, a worker “pushed the wrong button,” sending the alert out.
This incident quickly sparked backlash towards the EAS and investigations into the effectiveness of the system were put into place.
Guam residents were shaken by a mistakenly sent EAS test.
In August of 2017, residents of Guam were shaken by an emergency alarm that was mistakenly sent to them. Just days before the incident, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had made threats to bomb Guam, so tensions were high in the region. Then, according to Politico, a false “civil danger warning” was issued.
However, in a statement, Guam Homeland Security said, “The unauthorised test was NOT connected to any emergency, threat or warning. There is no scheduled test of the EAS [Emergency Alert Broadcast System] or All Hazards Alert Warning System sirens today.”
In 2013, a false evacuation alert was sent in Suffolk County.
On September 2, 2013, people in Suffolk County, New York, were hit with an emergency evacuation alert. The alert came as tropical storm Hermine approached and read, according to Newsday, “Civil Authorities have issued an Evacuation Immediate for the following New York counties: Suffolk. Effective until September 04-07:10 AM EDT. This is an emergency message from.”
In a statement to Newsday, a representative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency said that the false alert was being investigated and should not have been sent.
In 2005, Connecticut residents were erroneously told to evacuate.
Back in 2005, what was intended to be a test of the EAS ended up being an alert telling all residents to evacuate the state. The alert included no details as to why the evacuation was necessary.
Soon after it was issued, it was deemed false. Kerry Flaherty of the Office of Emergency Management told NBC News, “There is absolutely no evacuation or state emergency. It was an erroneous message.”
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