- uploaded: Dec 13, 2011
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December 12, 2011
An unannounced test of a soon to be mandatory emergency alert system caused panic in New Jersey today after Verizon customers received text messages warning them that a Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“civil emergencyĂ˘â‚¬Âť was in progress and to Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“take shelter,Ă˘â‚¬Âť prompting alarmed citizens to flood 911 lines with anxious calls.
However, media reports concerning the alarm completely ignore the fact that Verizon was almost certainly running a test for the federal governmentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s soon to be mandatory PLAN alert program, which the company has signed up for.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“A mass text message warning New Jersey cell phone users of a Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“civil emergencyĂ˘â‚¬Âť was sent out by Verizon Wireless earlier today,Ă˘â‚¬Âť reports the New Jersey Star-Ledger. Verizon Wireless later apologized to its customers for causing alarm.
The alert message included the text Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“U.S. Govern,Ă˘â‚¬Âť suggesting to customers the text had come from the federal government itself, which undoubtedly fueled the panic.
Residents in three different counties received the message, titled Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Emergency alert seek shelter by 1:24 p.m,Ă˘â‚¬Âť which was not labeled as a test. Police departments and country authorities fielded four times the usual number of calls, many of them from distressed citizens who wanted to know whether a real emergency was in progress. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“There is no reason to panic here,Ă˘â‚¬Âť said Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“It is a false text done maliciously today at 12:27 p.m.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
The Department of Homeland Security was also forced to put out a tweet confirming that there was no emergency after concerned citizens also turned to Twitter for advice, saying they were, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“scared and didnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t know how to react.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Verizon company spokesman David Samberg told the Star-Ledger that the message was part of a Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“test emergency notification,Ă˘â‚¬Âť apologizing Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“for any inconvenience or concern this message may have caused.Ă˘â‚¬Âť The messages were received by Verizon customers with, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Droid-operated phones in Monmouth and Ocean counties and other parts of central New Jersey.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Though completely absent from reports concerning the scare, the unannounced test was almost certainly conducted in preparation for FEMAĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s PLAN program (Personal Localized Alerting Network), which will broadcast emergency alert messages directly to AmericansĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ cell phones using a new chip embedded in the receiver. The system is scheduled to be operational across the country by the end of next year.
Verizon are one of the Ă˘â‚¬Ëśbig fourĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ wireless carriers that have agreed to sign up for the program, which will use a Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“special chipĂ˘â‚¬Âť embedded in all newly produced cellphones to send emergency alerts directly from the federal government. Customers will not be able to opt out of messages labeled Ă˘â‚¬Ëśpresidential alertsĂ˘â‚¬â„˘, meaning they will be forced to read what some construe as government propaganda.
The PLAN program is part of the wider move on behalf of Homeland Security to create a public environment dominated by a pervasive sense of fear and paranoia, a context in which the safe exercise of constitutional freedoms doesnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t normally thrive.
For the first time ever the feds will have a direct line to the millions of Americans who use cell phones and be able to use the messages to transmit whatever they like, whether that be genuine safety information, fear-mongering about spurious terror alerts, or political propaganda.
Judging by todayĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s response, the overwhelming majority of Americans will simply react by panicking, which in a real emergency situation could only make the crisis worse.