Nebraska State Patrol: Late night emergency alert was an error

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 8:25 AM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - If you were awoken late Tuesday night by an alert on your phone, it wasn’t from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.

Smartphones across the 6 News viewing area lit up, vibrated, and provided an ear-piercing squelch with the message “Emergency Alert. The following is a test of the Emergency Alert System. This is a monthly test of the EAS.”

The message was delivered at 11:07 p.m.

The Nebraska State Patrol reported Wednesday morning that the NSP, Nebraska Public Media, and NEMA alternate the monthly tests between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. but the tests are only supposed to be activated for broadcast media. You often see those running as crawls across the screen with a brief audio interrupt.

On Tuesday night, it was NSP’s turn to trigger the test. NSP acknowledged Wednesday morning that it inadvertently activated the Wireless Emergency Alert System.

“Just inadvertently a box got checked where it shouldn’t have been checked, so that’s why that went out to phones last night. It went out at the right time, but it just wasn’t supposed to go to anybody’s phones,” says Cody Thomas with the state patrol.

Despite startling and potentially waking up thousands of people, Thomas says there is a silver lining to the simple mistake.

“We don’t get to test that system hardly at all, so unfortunately, it was a test of the WEA system and we know that it worked because we’ve heard from so many people today that did receive it, most of them have been understanding,” he says.

Thomas adds that the WEA system occasionally gets a national test to ensure they work, but the last one was in 2020 and 2018.

In 2017 I remember there was a specific Amber Alert that was issued through this system as normal, but not everybody got it because the cellphone carriers didn’t pass it along to their subscribers,” Thomas adds.

Knowing that this time the alert did go through to all those customers means a safer and more informed community Thomas says.

The state patrol apologized for any inconvenience or distress the error may have caused.

The state patrol also says people should keep their emergency notifications on in their settings, as sometimes they are the quickest way to relay life-saving information.

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