CIVIL EMERGENCY WARNING CAUSES WIDE PANIC FOR OREGON RESIDENTS
So a couple weeks ago being a 911 dispatcher in Oregon would have been even more of a nightmare job than it normally is. Why? Citizens in Oregon were in a panic after they received an emergency alert that a Civil Emergency was in progress. What does that even mean? Well, Oregonians weren’t sure, but they sure were upset and scared enough to flood 911 with questions. Authorities were quick to let them know that there was an error due to a “technology issue” and everyone could remain calm. So yet again we have a mass panic caused from a technology/human error situation. This time nothing too bad happened as a result.
THERE WAS DANGEROUS WATER, BUT EMERGENCY WARNING SOUNDED LIKE INVASION
At about 8pm one night about two weeks ago, the following message went out to the residents of Marion County and the areas around it, “Civil Emergency in this area until 11:28 PM PDT. Prepare for Action OEM,1,OR.” Doesn’t that sound ominous? Well, locals who received the message certainly thought so. I would have, too. But there was a reason for a warning to go out to the public. But it was a specific message. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management, or OEM, followed up with a statement that explained that the city of Salem was at risk for dangerous drinking water. In essence, Salem’s water contained low levels of cyanotoxins. That’s worth a warning, but for some reason just a generally scary alert went out.
AUTHORITIES PROMISE TO IMPROVE WARNING SYSTEM, DELIVERY
A spokesman for the OEM, Cory Grogan, said, “There were additional details that were supposed to go out, but for some reason, it went to the default message instead.” OEM’s director, Andrew Phelps, later sent a more detailed statement to local media, saying, “OEM apologizes for the confusion and anxiety this incomplete message caused.” He said they were also, “conducting a forensic analysis of the steps we took to send the message and ensure our procedures are written and practiced in a way that will prevent a confusing message from being sent from our system in the future.”
WARNING WORKED, JUST TOO WELL AND ABOUT NOTHING IN PARTICULAR
So the warning system worked. But it didn’t say which specific people should be warned, nor what they should be warned about. Salem residents were, indeed, at risk of some serious harm if they drank any of their contaminated water. Those toxins could have caused, upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and possible liver and kidney damage. So it’s good the warning went out. But not so good that they had heart attacks thinking they were under attack. Don’t drink the water! And stay tuned. You never know what a warning will really mean. But what do you do when you don’t know if a warning is real? Or if it’s a false alarm? That’s a problem.