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Florida emergency managers fire the company behind accidental early morning alert

 The emergency alert message seen on tables and cell phones across the state at 4:45 a.m. Thursday, April 20, 2023
Lynn Hatter
The emergency alert message seen on tables and cell phones across the state at 4:45 a.m. Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Florida Division of Emergency Management is the culprit in this week's early wake-up call to the millions of people in the state. Floridians were still snug as bugs in bed when every cell phone and tablet in their home went off. Simultaneously.

Reports of Floridians jumping out of bed, falling out of bed, and smashing their phones and tablets poured across social media Thursday as most everyone reacted to the screeching alert that was sent by the Florida Department of Emergency Management. Many people reacted with amusement and humor, many others, however, did not.

The test was only supposed to be for terrestrial tv broadcast, but the alert was mistakenly sent the to devices.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management said it fired the company contracted to handle emergency alerts. The company, Everbridge, confirmed the separation in a statement.

“There appears to have been an unfortunate procedural error in this monthly test that we are investigating,” said Everbridge spokesperson Jeff Young in a statement. “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."

In a statement, the Florida Association of Broadcasters, which was initially blamed for the failure, says it only sets the scheduled test times, and not the actual alerts.

"The test is sent out monthly to only TV and radio broadcasters as required by the FCC. FAB only sets the schedule, the Florida Division of Emergency Management is responsible for sending it out. FAB has no involvement in the sending of these alerts. A mistake was made by the Florida Division of Emergency Management, they are well aware of the seriousness of it," said Pat Roberts, President & CEO of the FAB.

Emergency managers later sent a statement accepting responsibility and apologizing for the mistake.

"We know a 4:45 AM wake up call isn't ideal. @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," the department said in a statement on Twitter.

In a letter to emergency managers, Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, is asking that alerts be sent out no earlier than 8 a.m.
“In order to prevent such a cell phone mishap again, and in an abundance of caution in the event of human error, I would ask that you consider a more humane, later morning testing time, such as 8:00 am, in place of the 4:50 am time slot?” Powell wrote to Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.
Copyright 2023 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Lynn Hatter has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative.
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