What’s With All the False Alarm Warnings from the Emergency Alert System Lately?

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By the author of Be Ready for Anything and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

In 2018, there have been at least 4 false alarms that have drummed up panic for no reason at all. It makes you wonder, what’s with all these false alarms? And how can we actually trust an alert that comes to our phone from the Emergency Alert System at all?


The first, of course, was Hawaii, on January 13th. That one scared me personally since one of my dearest friends lives there and I knew it was a time when she wouldn’t be up yet in the morning. I frantically tried to reach her and finally woke her up to tell her the news. A missile was on the way to Hawaii and it was NOT a drill.

The message was sent to cell phones and broadcast on TV and radio stations with the chilling message that residents were to take shelter immediately. Warning sirens went off at resorts and hotels.

It was bedlam in many parts of the island state. Parents were shoving their children into storm drains. After 47 minutes of terror, another alert told the panicked islanders that this had been a false alarm.

It turns out that an employee “hit the wrong button” and sent out the alert. However, people affected were reasonably furious that it took so long to correct the error.


The false alarm in Hawaii was barely out of the headlines when another inaccurate alert was sent to residents of Maine. The alert warned people in the coastal city of Portland that a tsunami was incoming.


While it’s not impossible for a coastal town to be threatened by a tsunami, it’s incredibly rare on the East Coast and Maine has suffered only minor events historically. The biggest tsunami wave ever recorded there was 10 feet high in 1926. It flooded the harbor but there were no deaths.

Despite this, residents near the water were quite rightfully alarmed. It turned out that this was a test message that somehow was accidentally sent as a push notification. AccuWeather and the National Weather Service have both pointed the finger for the error to the other agency.

“Tsunami warnings are handled with the utmost concern by AccuWeather and it has sophisticated algorithms to scan the entire message, not just header words, as from the time of a warning to the actual event can be mere minutes,” the statement said. “AccuWeather was correct in reading the mistaken NWS codes embedded in the warning. The responsibility is on the NWS to properly and consistently code the messages, for only they know if the message is correct or not.”

…The National Tsunami Warning Center said it did not issue a tsunami warning, watch or advisory for any part of the United States or Canada Tuesday morning. The center, based in Palmer, Alaska, issues monthly tests to regional weather offices.

Officials said it appeared to be an issue only with the Accuweather app. (source)


The tsunami warning a few months later in Alaska held a lot more weight since the area is prone to seismic activity and in an area where tsunamis are a more realistic threat.

In May, a truncated version of a test message was sent in error and broadcast by local radio and TV stations. This one did not go to the phones of local residents but was picked up by the media. Because it was abbreviated, the words “this is a test” did not show up and therefore were not broadcast.

What makes matters worse is that earlier in the year, when there was actually a threat after a 7.9 earthquake hit the Gulf of Alaska, the tsunami warning that should have gone out to coastal residents was not received by some Alaskan broadcasters and wireless companies.


Then a couple of days ago, the system in Oregon sent out a mysterious message to Salem residents that had them puzzled and alarmed.

And that was it – no further information was included. Just that there was an emergency and that they should “prepare for action.”

Andrew Phelps, the head of Oregon’s emergency management agency, apologized for the “glitch.” It turns out that this time there actually was a critical situation of which people needed to be aware.

Phelps said late Tuesday that a technical glitch had cut off crucial information: that the alert concerned elevated levels of a natural toxin in a local reservoir. Children and people with compromised immune systems have been told not to drink tap water in the Salem, Oregon, area after an algae bloom caused the spike.

“The integrated public alert warning system inadvertently defaulted to a generic message,” Phelps said in a video posted on the social media by the Office of Emergency Management. “I apologize for the confusion and the anxiety this incomplete message has caused.” (source)

Of course, this message left people’s minds racing about the nature of the emergency. Some people were afraid to go outside, fearing an active shooter, while others feared a terror attack. And it turns out, even the agency that sent the alert was baffled, taking 31 minutes to follow up with a message that provided some clarity as to the nature of the emergency.

Confusion surrounded the initial alert even within the emergency management agency, with a spokesperson telling reporters the message had caught them unawares and state police asking residents via a Facebook post not to call 911 about the alert. (source)

At that point, people were in panic mode. Stores were quickly emptied of their water supplies and chaos was left in shoppers’ wakes. A reader local to the area sent me a message telling of what had ensued.

I live in Salem Oregon. This evening at 8:30 pm phones across my state went nuts. We received a vague emergency message. A civil emergency is what they called it. You read that and I don’t care who you are, your attention has been grasped.

With power still running I took to social media. My feed was hot. People were freaking out. No one knew what was going on. Finally, word spread and we discovered our tap water is tainted. With toxic algae! They say safe for adults. (Ummm, no thanks). You can’t boil it away. It’s a firm “don’t give kids under 6, elderly, pets, medically compromised, pregnant, and nursing women any tap water.” Period.

At 9 pm we received a far more clear emergency text. And the police took to Facebook as evidently 911 was swamped. Its all over the news. Shelves are empty. People are frightened and panicking and it has only been an hour.

The Emergency Alert System is not working very well.

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is overseen by the FCC and can be dispatched locally or even at the national level.

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers, and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to provide the communications capability to the President to address the American public during a national emergency. The system also may be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information, such as AMBER alerts and weather information targeted to specific areas.

The FCC, in conjunction with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service (NWS), implements the EAS at the federal level. The President has sole responsibility for determining when the EAS will be activated at the national level, and has delegated this authority to the director of FEMA. FEMA is responsible for implementation of the national-level activation of the EAS, tests, and exercises. The NWS develops emergency weather information to alert the public about imminent dangerous weather conditions. (source)

The EAS, while a great idea, is sending out so many false alarm warnings that one has to wonder if people will even pay attention in an actual emergency. Theories abound as to why the false alarms are happening, with people pointing fingers toward a wide variety of possibilities:

  • Human error
  • Deliberate manipulation to panic people into being better prepared
  • A cover-up for a system that was hacked
  • In the case of Hawaii, an actual emergency that was quietly diverted
  • Systems errors

My advice? It’s the same advice I’d give in any situation. If you think there could be a threat, don’t panic, take the appropriate action, and wait to see how things play out.

But one thing is sure. There are only so many false alarms that can be sent out before the EAS loses all effectiveness. Pretty soon, if not already, people will just roll their eyes and carry on with their days instead of taking action. And if that’s the case, our apathetic society will become even less interested in being prepared for emergencies. There are only so many times you can be spurred to panic for no reason until you’re immune to that particular voice crying “wolf.”

One day when a real disaster is inbound, nobody will pay attention to what is “probably” just another false alarm.

What do you think?

What do you think is going on with the Emergency Alert System? Why is there such a prevalence of false alarms this year? How much credibility would you give a warning like these if you received one out of the blue?

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • There was also an alert in Florida not too long ago that included a danger for Zombie activity.

  • Just heard a PSA from DHS stating this could be a year of increased natural disasters, urging everyone to be “prepared”. An odd sort of warning, I’ve never heard before…

  • The occurrence of this significant number of alerts is of concern. We didn’t seem to be experiencing any false warnings then we have them cropping up every week or two. Something seems wrong here.

  • I think that it is so we become complacent and ill prepared.. remember when car alarms came out you looked when you heared on now it just annoying..I personally find I’m well of as long as my house or truck is near..I don’t travel far.

  • Good article. I think it is indeed suspicious that we’ve seen so many of these “errors” in such a short period of time. Prior to this, I’ve never heard of this happening. It could be attributed to local hackers or actual cyber warfare from hostile entities. I noticed a “good one” that would have been a nice addition to your article. In Florida recently they warned of….zombies! Yes, zombies. Imagine getting that warning message on your phone!? Lol

    The headline on Tulsa’s Channel 8 KTUL.com website read, “Florida city warns residents of power outage, zombies”

    The actual alert warned that more than 7000 customers lost power “due to extreme zombie activity.”


    • Oh! I forgot about that one, Adam. You’re right, would have been a good addition. I think (hope) they were trying to make it fun and get people’s attention with the zombie alert. Then again, who knows these days!

  • FYI that situation in Hawaii…was real. Deep state launched an ICBM from a dolphin class sub from the Pacific to start WWW3..

  • Do they see something coming and putting the system on tests runs and/or gauging public reaction? Or is it sick psychopaths “scaring” the public like George Bush and Dick Cheney did with 911 who then got their jollies off seeing you molested by TSA agents?

    • Oh, I think something real bad is coming, but they will not warn us. These false ‘positives’ are simply to ratchet up the fear factor. To make us fearful. The government really doesn’t do anything well except taking our money and rights. As far as the TSA goes… The naked body scanners were not enough. New enhanced groping techniques have been implemented. This too, is to get us used to not having any rights… And the Sheeple put up with it. And, have you noticed all the weird incidents on flights lately? It seems people are turning into animals.

  • 1. Cyber activity by hackers seeking to frighten the population.
    2. System errors
    3. Or this……..A warning from God. Not sure about the zombie warning but a T.V. minister, who lives
    in Florida recently related on his broad cast that he was having situations in which alarms whether it was he forgot to fasten his seat belt or if he was in an establishment, alarms started to ring and he mentioned another associate who seemed to be enduring this situation. This same minister, had previously last year appeared on another Christian T.V. program and during the program, the fire alarms kept going off. He said then, this seems to be an on going thing with him .Of course, they were speaking about end time events . So is the alarms warning us about him or urging us to get/stay ready, which is the hardest.

    I say, take heed about the Tsunami warnings especially with the situation in Hawaii (West Cost) and the threat on The East Coast (Canary Islands) although they may be accidental.

    Question: When you received the alert, false, accidental as it may was, were you ready? Were you ready to grab and go, bug out as they say?

  • we purchased a weather radio about 10 years ago as we are in a tornado prone area. I set it up for 3 counties to alert us when they were involved in an alert. After about 2 weeks when the thing would go off all over the place we unplugged it and no longer use it at all. What you are saying about crying wolf to many times will prove true.

  • It’s called “conditioning” and them reminding you who’s in charge. Respond by keeping your phone in the OFF position or put it in a shielded box until needed.

  • Might you know if they changed/upgraded the previous system and the new environment is glitchy? Could be something benign that has not been considered yet. Maybe the Hawai’i one being real made them diffuse it more by creating other false alerts to make the Hawai’i less real to people so then the sheeple could just say there were many false alerts that same year so noooooo the Hawai’i one was just a “mistake.”

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