Unexpected wakeup call: Emergency test wakes Floridians before 5 a.m.; FDEM apologizes

DeSantis says it was “a completely inappropriate use of this system”

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Millions of people across Florida shot out of bed early Thursday morning when the state issued a test of its emergency alert system to cellphones.

The mobile test went off at 4:45 a.m., and read “This is a TEST of the Emergency Alert System. No action is required.”

It came with a jarring sound that many people on social media say jolted them out of bed.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management issued a statement on Thursday afternoon addressing the alert:

“Emergency alert testing directives originate from the federal government. This morning’s test was supposed to be a test of televised emergency alerts, which the Florida Association of Broadcasters normally schedules for very early in the morning because that is when the fewest people are watching TV (to minimize disruption). Florida contracts with a company called Everbridge to provide the technical coding and instructions required to push out emergency alerts. Everbridge sent the wrong technical specifications for this alert – which ultimately pushed the alert over the Wireless Emergency Alert system (cellphones).

Good government identifies errors, corrects them expediently, and holds people accountable when appropriate. The Division recognizes that this error was unacceptably disruptive and will correct it.

Nonetheless, the Division stresses the importance of being able to receive emergency alerts as disasters can happen at any time and these alerts save lives. Please do maintain emergency alert notifications on your cellular device – we will ensure they are used appropriately henceforth.”

Florida Division of Emergency Management

FDEM also issued an apology via Twitter, saying the alert was only supposed to be on TV.

Local 10 News reporter Saira Anwer polled people on Twitter about the early wakeup call and nearly two-thirds of voters said they are going to disable the alerts for the future.

According to the Florida Association of Broadcasters, this is the testing schedule.

State officials say the testing is necessary so that alerts are ready to go for emergencies, like hurricanes or other severe weather events.

Governor Ron DeSantis also weighed in on the early morning alert, saying the alert was an inappropriate use of the system and wants accountability.

DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin said: “The party responsible will be held accountable and appropriately discharged.”

Republican state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said he plans to introduce legislation called the “Stop WAKE Act,” a riff on DeSantis’ signature “Stop WOKE Act,” to keep such a mistake from happening again.

He said he plans to attach the legislation as an amendment to an existing bill this year, but didn’t say which one.

About the Authors:

Veronica Crespo writes for Local10.com and also oversees the Español section of the website. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami, where she studied broadcast journalism and Spanish.

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.