Officials look at software after mistaken alert to Minnesota counties

A false alert message.
Residents in Itasca County, Minn, and five other Minnesota counties received an evacuation alert from Homeland Security and Emergency Management on their phone Wednesday morning. Officials said it was an error due to a glitch in the system.
Courtesy of Itasca County Sheriff's Office

The Department of Public Safety says it's working with a software vendor after an evacuation alert was mistakenly broadcast to cellphones in northern Minnesota.

The message — intended as an internal weekly test — went out Wednesday morning in six counties.

Department spokesperson Bruce Gordon said operators of the state's wireless emergency alert system followed the correct procedures, but their computer didn't.

He also said a key piece of text didn't get through.

"The message that went out, because it was cut off, did not include "this is a test." And so even if somebody had received it in error, they would have been able to know that. But for whatever reason, the message was cut off," Gordon said.

"We're also going to implement a triple check of the software to make sure that everything is running in the background as it should be so it prevents anything like this from happening in the future."

The FCC launched the alert system in 2012. It sends geographically targeted notifications to smart phones about missing children, severe weather and other critical incidents.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.