Southern Californians woke up to a disturbing urgent alert on their phones Saturday morning, warning residents of Chevy Chase Canyon in Glendale to evacuate.
But according to the City of Glendale, the “emergency” is really just an exercise.
The message reads, “Public Safety Alert.” “Chevy Chase Valley residents safely evacuate your home and proceed to the evacuation site located in the Glendale Community College B parking lot.”
While the push alert itself did not elaborate, the city of Glendale did on social media.
“This is an exercise: #MyGlendale conducts an evacuation drill in Chevy Chase Canyon,” the city said in a Twitter statement. “For those who live in Chevy Chase Canyon: Evacuate your home safely and go to the evacuation site located at Glendale Community College Parking Lot B.”
The “Public Safety Alert” did not mention the fact that the evacuation was an exercise, causing alarm among residents who greeted it at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
The alert was also issued to phones away from Chevy Chase Canyon, with individuals such as Santa Fe Springs, Hawthorne, Brentwood and Northridge taking to Twitter to express their confusion.
“I’m in Northridge,” one Twitter user said. “I didn’t even know where the Chevy Chase Canyon was.”
“Did this just go to all of LA County?” asked another.
The City of Glendale provided a warning on its official Twitter account in advance, issuing a statement about 20 minutes before the start of exercises.
The Glendale Fire Department also issued an advance warning on Wednesday, notifying residents of the exercises on Saturday and providing a link to a short video explanation.
However, the advance warning from the city of Glendale does not appear to be widespread outside of Twitter.
About 30 minutes later, at 9:32 a.m. Saturday, another push alert went out through the emergency system, explaining the error.
The second push alert message read “Discard the eviction letter for Chevy Chase Canyon.” Just a training exercise.
The same update was added to the city’s Twitter account.
“There was an error in the technology used to send this morning’s message,” the city said on Twitter. “We are working to address this issue. Updates to continue.”
Silvio Lanzas, chief of the Glendale City Fire Department, explained to NBC4 that there were two parts to the technical error.
The first part, and the reason why most of Los Angeles County is alerting, is actually a regular part of the emergency program.
According to the fire chief, the Glendale Fire Department worked with the Glendale Police Department to send an alert to conduct the approved drills. According to the program leader, the emergency software they use maps the area affected by an accident and may need a warning.
“If the affected area has more than 100 bends in the boundary,” Lanzas said, the problem will be sent to Los Angeles County.
On Saturday, the area designated to conduct the exercises was large enough that it triggered that automatic function – sending a “public safety alert” to residents outside the Glendale area.
Another troubling error, the fact that the emergency alert did not indicate that the crash was just a rehearsal, was due to a software issue that affected the address of the push alert, according to the president.
This title was supposed to include either “exercise” or “exercise,” the Chair said.
But either due to computer error or human error – it is not yet clear which part of the title was never included.
At about 10:30 a.m., the city released an official statement explaining the bug.
“On Saturday, May 14, 2022, at 9:00 a.m., the City of Glendale conducted a planned evacuation exercise in coordination with the Chevy Chase Canyon Association,” the statement read. “Due to a bug in the messenger, incorrect messages have been distributed throughout Los Angeles County. The city is working with our partners to investigate.”
The statement also stressed the importance of such emergency exercises despite the error in these exercises.
In that statement, Lanzas apologized “to anyone who was negatively affected by today’s message.”
“As we saw last week in Laguna Niguel, the fire environment in Southern California is key to another potentially active fire season. Ensuring community preparedness is key to keeping our residents safe,” Lanzas said.
The emergency alert error came just days after a major fire in the Laguna Niguel neighborhood destroyed 20 homes and damaged 11 others, and just hours after wildfires near Highway 118 in the Granada hills burned for several hours.