Equipment test leads to false alarm telling residents to evacuate Kern County

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An equipment test of the Emergency Alert System turned into what appeared to many to be a real emergency Thursday afternoon.

Calls flooded the 17 Newsroom following the warning that flashed across TV screens at 3:24 p.m. alerting about an evacuation order for Kern County.

Emergency Services Alert chairman Rusty Burchfield said broadcasters are required to send a weekly test of the emergency alert system. 

“Instead this was sent out as an actual emergency which our stations in the area are required to immediately rebroadcast without question for our listenerships and viewers safety.”

So what went wrong?

“A fellow broadcaster in Lancaster was installing some new equipment and called the county [emergency communication center] … and asked for a test to be resent so they could test their equipment,” Burchfield said.

“In the process, the operator on duty was rather new to the experience and was instructed to follow the procedures. In the process of which, they inadvertently sent out a county wide evacuation.”

This emergency evacuation alert coming just a little over a month after a ballistic missile threat warning was accidentally sent out in Hawaii, causing widespread panic there.

“Obviously with what happened in Hawaii it’s a bit more sensitive than normal, but we are taking steps to address that,” Matt Redstone with the Kern County Fire Department said. “Public trust is number one for us. It’s a priority.”

Kern County Fire Department, head of the Office of Emergency Services, said if the alert was real there would have been more information.

“The alert came out as just an evacuation,” Redstone said. “If it had been actual real emergency there would have been information following up behind it such as the type of emergency, where to evacuate, the communities affected and then addition we would have followed up with our Ready Kern system, calling folks with more detailed instructions.”

The Office of Emergency Services said it is working to take the steps to keep this from happening again.

County fire says to receive alerts from Ready Kern you must be signed up.

To sign up, click here.

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