People in several areas of east-central and northeastern Minnesota received a false evacuation order Wednesday from state emergency management authorities, causing “confusion and concern,” at least one Sheriff’s Office in the region reported.
The routine weekly testing of the wireless emergency alert system was “not intended to be delivered to the public,” said Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the agency that oversees the Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) Division.
The message went out at 7:52 a.m. and said, “Emergency Alert in this area until 8:06AM CST Evacuate Now HSEM, St. P” before cutting off.
Recipients were told “within 10 minutes” that there was no evacuation being ordered, said Gordon of the state Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Gordon said the erroneous alert went out to wireless recipients in parts of Aitkin, Carlton, Cass, Pine and St. Louis counties. Separately, Itasca County authorities said their residents also received the unintended order.
“All 911 call centers were notified immediately, as well as local emergency managers,” Gordon said. “Local officials have communicated with their communities,” while state officials took to social media to get the word out.
Gordon said the state is investigating how the mistake occurred and how many people received the false evacuation order.
St. Louis County’s emergency management coordinator, Duane Johnson, said the words “this is a test” were somehow missing from the alert received in Floodwood and other communities.
Johnson said the mistake “led to confusion and concern. ... There is no evacuation order in place, nor any reason to do so.”
Gordon said that “as far as we know,” no one mistakenly acted on the belief that an evacuation was being ordered.