Only a test: Florida rudely awakened by Emergency Alert System. Here’s what happened

Cellphones blare at 4:45 a.m. after message sent in error

ORLANDO, Fla. – If you received an early wakeup call Thursday morning on your cellphone, you were not alone.

Phones across Florida blared around 4:45 a.m. with a test of the Emergency Alert System.

The message said, “TEST - This is a TEST of the Emergency Alert System. No action is required.”

About four hours later, the Florida Division of Emergency Management tweeted about the alert.

“We know a 4:45AM wakeup call isn’t ideal,” the tweet said. “@FLSERT wants to apologize for the early morning text. Each month, we test #emergencyalerts on a variety of platforms. This alert was supposed to be on TV, and not disturb anyone already sleeping.”

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The agency said it will take “appropriate action to ensure this will never happen again and that only true emergencies are sent as alerts in the middle of the night.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted that an investigation will be conducted.

“I’ve ordered FL Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie to bring swift accountability for the test of the emergency alert system in the wee hours of the morning. This was a completely inappropriate use of this system,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis’ press secretary, Bryan Griffin, tweeted that “the party responsible will be held accountable and appropriately discharged.”

Prior to the FDEM apology, Orange County sent an OCAlert message, saying the test was a mistake.

“This morning’s alert was sent by the State of Florida in error. The whole of the emergency management community apologizes for this error and steps will be taken to prevent it from occurring again. Be aware that today (4/20) there will be a large scale exercise simulating a major, multi-patient medical emergency. You may see increased ambulance traffic around the hospitals but no part of this exercise will impact patient care. Thank you,” the statement said.

Seminole County officials, meanwhile, urged residents to not turn off emergency alerts on their phones.

“Misinformation is circulating regarding this morning’s accidental alert from the state of Florida and a schedule of future test alerts,” the county said. “Residents will not receive monthly Emergency Alert tests from the state going forward. This morning, the state accidentally used the ‘live’ screen instead of the ‘test’ screen when sending a test alert.”

On Thursday evening, FDEM officials told News 6 that the state has terminated its contract with Everbridge, the company responsible for the alert.

News 6 reached out to Everbridge, which provided the following statement:

“We have a long history of supporting the State of Florida and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) dating back to 2016. Our system is used by cities, states, and entire countries around the world. We provide powerful technology that is used for good, and to save lives. There appears to have been an unfortunate procedural error in this monthly test that we are investigating. As mentioned by FDEM, we too regret the inconvenience this test caused the residents of Florida earlier this morning. We are committed to the State of Florida and to FDEM as a partner, as we are with all of our customers, to continue to improve and ensure best practices are applied.”

Statement from Everbridge

News 6 spoke with a couple of residents who were awakened by alert.

“Anything going like that at that hour of the morning is a little intense -- not exactly how you want to start your day,” Greg Nunn said.

Others just shrugged it off.

“I didn’t let it bother me whatsoever,” Mike Burch said.

The Emergency Alert System is intended to notify people of pending disasters.