As people along the East Coast, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean were preparing for their day around 8:30 a.m. ET, a smartphone push notification warned some of them of a possible tsunami.
What’s this? 🤔 @accuweather Tsunami Warning? #Tsunami #Miami @nbc6 pic.twitter.com/PsuC7NJ8Iv
— Gabriel Torrellas (@GabTorrellas) February 6, 2018
The threat, as it turned out, was nonexistent. The National Weather Service tells NPR that it was a “test message” released by at least one private company as an official warning. In a statement, spokesperson Susan Buchanan said:
“The National Tsunami Warning Center of the National Weather Service issued a routine test message at approximately 8:30 am ET this morning. The test message was released by at least one private sector company as an official Tsunami Warning, resulting in widespread reports of tsunami warnings received via phones and other media across the East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.”
The federal agency issued a tweet addressing the incident over an hour after the false warning was delivered.
The NWS would not elaborate on how widespread the warnings were, but said the agency is currently looking into why the test message was communicated as an actual tsunami warning.
There is NO current Tsunami Warning, Advisory, Watch, or Threat for the U.S.
Please refer to https://t.co/pXpCFxXtaU and @NWS_NTWC for up to date information.
— NWS (@NWS) February 6, 2018
The NWS says neither the agency nor its National Tsunami Warning Center division were responsible for the false push notification, which they say was misinterpreted and issued as an official warning by “at least one” private sector company.
The error comes weeks after a false ballistic missile alert in Hawaii declaring “THIS IS NOT A DRILL” advised Hawaii residents and tourists to seek immediate shelter.
The alert issued by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency was sent at 8:07 a.m local time. It took until 8:20 a.m. for the agency to post to its Twitter and Facebook accounts that there was no missile threat to Hawaii. It took the agency a full 38 minutes after it had sent the false alert to issue a correction through the emergency alert system.
The alert was issued because emergency worker believed there really was a missile threat, according to a preliminary investigation by the Federal Communications Commission. That employee, who had “confused real-life events and drills in the past” according to the FCC, was fired.