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GEMA warning test causes confusion

A safety alert system announcement that failed to state it was only a test caused alarm and confusion Thursday across Georgia and neighboring states.

Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said his office did not field any calls Thursday from concerned residents, but he was notified by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Office of Homeland Security about the test and its reaction.

Many people complained on social media that the alarm should have been clear it was only a test, not a warning, according to reports.

A screen shot of the warning was posted Thursday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The alert read: “EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM PAGE (1/1) A Civil Authority has issued a RADIOLOGICAL HAZARD WARNING at 7:59 a.m. on June 20, 2019 until 8:59 a.m. on June 20, 2018 for the following counties/areas – GEORGIA STATEWIDE.”

The National Weather Service said a radiological hazard warning “alerts the public to the loss, discovery or release of a radiological hazard.” The alert went out via cell phones and on TV stations, according to the AJC. “A warning of that type could be issued of radioactive materials are spilled, like in a traffic accident, or stolen.”

The alert was also received in some areas of Florida, South Carolina and Alabama.

Wynn provided the Statesboro Herald with a GEMA/HS press release explaining the erroneous alert. According to the statement issued by Lisa Rodriguez-Presley, GEMA external affairs supervisor, the release said “The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency conducted a test of the emergency alert system today regarding radiological emergency. We conduct regular testing of our emergency alert systems in order to ensure we are capable of reaching the public in the event of an actual emergency. Although the message stated that it was a test, we are aware that there was confusion on the part of some. We have since issued a cancellation message to ensure that the public is clear that this was a test message only.”

GEMA/HS also issued the statement via social media, she said.

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at 912-489-9414.

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