Crime, Law and Justice

Shelter-in-place alert for Robbinsdale neighborhood inadvertently sent to all of Hennepin County

A police squad on a city street at night
A Crystal police squad blocks a street in Robbinsdale on Monday night. Authorities issued a shelter-in-place alert for a small section of Robbinsdale after reports of a domestic situation involving weapons.
Lisa Ryan | MPR News

Updated: April 23, 12:10 p.m.

Authorities issued a shelter-in-place alert on Monday evening for a small part of Robbinsdale — which was inadvertently broadcast to all of Hennepin County and beyond.

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday said the cause was human error.

“This warning was meant to be sent to the target area of Robbinsdale by Wireless Emergency Alert, which is a component of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. Instead it was sent as an Emergency Alert System alert, which resulted in the alert being aired on most broadcast television stations in the Twin Cities metro region,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Robbinsdale police said the alert stemmed from reports of a “possible armed domestic situation” on the 3600 block of West Broadway. Officers responded to the call at about 6:45 p.m., and detained three people who appeared to be involved in the incident. Officers also confirmed that weapons had been involved, though police did not elaborate on what kinds of weapons.

Authorities said they had conflicting information on whether other people were involved, so they “contained” a residence.

“As is standard procedure, a shelter in place notification was sent out by the Hennepin County Communications Division,” Robbinsdale police said in an update Monday night. “This was to be sent to the impacted residences on the block. However, it was sent, unintentionally, to (all of) Hennepin County.”

The alert, sent just after 7:30 p.m., also reached other counties through television and radio broadcasts.

Authorities said the three people who were detained had minor injuries. There were no reports of other injuries in the incident. The localized shelter-in-place warning expired just after 10:30 p.m.

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said the employee who sent the alert was certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to do so.

“HCSO has identified the step in the alert process that resulted in the mistake. HCSO plans to contact the software developer with a suggested fix to make this type of error less likely, and (Emergency Communications Facility) leadership is already working with Hennepin County Emergency Management to update our standard operating procedures related to these alerts,” the sheriff’s office said Tuesday.

It’s not the first time in recent years that a public safety alert was inadvertently sent to a wider area of Minnesota than intended.

In October 2022, a shelter-in-place cell phone alert intended for a small area of Roseville was broadcast throughout the Twin Cities metro.

In August 2022, an alert for the city of Pine Island was erroneously sent to other parts of the state as well. 

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