Skip to main content

False civil emergency alert text panics Oregon’s Marion County

KATU Photo

A vague but false civil emergency alert text sent to many residents of Marion County, Oregon, caused a significant panic on Tuesday evening, KATU reported.

The text message, sent at 8:29 p.m. PT on May 29 read:

Emergency Alert
Civil Emergency in this area until 11:28PM PDT
Prepare for Action OEM,1,OR

The message was supposed to notify residents of Salem, Oregon, the state’s capital city, about a tap water advisory. Instead, recipients of the whole county in which Salem is located were advised to “prepare” for some unqualified “Action.”

According to the Marion County Sheriff’s office, residents immediately started calling 911 to find out what was going on and what they should do about it.

Dispatchers at the 911 center told people not to call 911, that there was no emergency.

More than two hours after the disturbing text alert went out, the Marion County Sheriff’s office tweeted, “THERE IS NO CIVIL EMERGENCY. The message was intended to notify those affected by the water issue in Salem. PLEASE DO NOT CALL 911.”

A subsequent tweet by the City of Salem in response to a citizen’s query stated, “@OregonOEM sent this on our behalf. You can find out more information about the drinking water advisory on the City’s website:

In a message to KATU, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) explained a “technology issue” resulted in dropped data including the water advisory link in the message that went to phones. The message went out correctly to televisions but reverted to a default message on phones.

“The alert that was sent had to do with the water drink notice, sent on behalf of Marion County,” OEM spokesman Cory Grogan told KATU. “There were additional details that were supposed to go out, but for some reason, it went to the default message instead.”

The Salem tap water issue that was intended for the text alerts is a serious concern. The drinking water advisory explained that routine water testing of treated drinking water found low levels of cyanotoxins created by algal blooms in the city drinking water source, the Detroit Reservoir. Children under six, people with compromised immune systems, and other sensitive populations were advised not to drink tap water until otherwise advised.

Oregon OEM Director Andrew Phelps followed up later Tuesday evening with a statement that read in part:

“Beginning this evening, we are conducting a forensic analysis of the steps we took to send the message and ensure our procedures are written and practiced in a way that will prevent a confusing message from being sent from our system in the future.

“We understand the importance of emergency alerts and need to get it right, every time.”

Editors' Recommendations

Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Commerce teams. Bruce uses smart devices…
Every Samsung gadget we still expect in 2024
A person folding up the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.

Sure, the Samsung Galaxy S24 range is out, but don't think that's it for Samsung's 2024. The Korean company still has a lot to share, from folding smartphones to new watches and even an entirely new product range. As ever, it's going to be a massive year for Samsung, and many of its releases are sure to end up as staples on our various best-of lists.

The rumor mills are abuzz with whispers and leaks, and it's giving us plenty to look forward to. Here's the lowdown on every Samsung gadget we still expect to see in 2024, along with when we think they'll be officially revealed to the world.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 (July 2024)

Read more
I wish I could buy Huawei’s new Pura 70 phones
Huawei Pura 70 Ultra green leather and gold metal finish.

Huawei has pretty much been removed from the U.S. smartphone market after being sanctioned by the former Trump administration nearly five years ago. But in its home country of China, it has frequent run-ins with Apple for the top spot. Besides a sense of nationalism, Huawei's success is backed by phones that offer top-notch design, exceptional cameras, and extremely unique features. We see these traits once again on the latest Huawei Pura 70 series that launched in China today as a successor to the photography-centric P60 lineup from last year.

Huawei's Pura 70 series has four phones: the regular Pura 70, the Pura 70 Pro, the Pura 70 Pro+, and the Pura 70 Ultra. Being a camera-centric series, the phones feature a distinct triangular camera arrangement, while the Ultra -- the top-of-the-line model -- also comes with a retractable lens similar to digital cameras for finer focus.

Read more
Meta’s ChatGPT killer is taking over your favorite apps
Meta AI on mobile and desktop web interface.

The AI hype is in full swing right now, transcending form factor boundaries with mixed success. But for the most part, the situation has been a pricey endeavor for users willing to tap into its full potential. Earlier today, Meta AI made its grand debut, drawing power from the Llama 3 model. It’s free (for now) and it could well be one of the first truly mass-market AI products.

That’s primarily because Meta AI is already making its way to some of the most widely used platforms on the planet that draw billions of users. Available in the English language, the multifunctional AI tool can now be found on WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger.

Read more