Oops, never mind - reports of Connecticut's demise extremely exaggerated

| 2/2/2005

If you live in Connecticut, stay put – it turns out a notice from the state for everyone to leave was a mistake.

A state official who accidentally pushed the wrong button sent a message to everyone listening to radio or watching TV in Connecticut Feb. 1 calling for them to evacuate the state.

According to media outlets, the message, which appeared as a “crawler” at the bottom of some TV screens, said: “Civil authorities have issued an immediate evacuation order for all of Connecticut, beginning at 2:10 p.m. and ending at 3:10 p.m.”

State officials quickly issued notices indicating that the message was an error. Officials with the Office of Emergency Management in Hartford said on their agency’s Web site that the error occurred during a weekly test at 2:10 p.m. EST.

“There is NO emergency situation requiring an evacuation or any other protective measure,” the notice on the Emergency Management Web site said. “This was due to an error and was not a malicious act. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

However, at least one Connecticut citizen was seemingly neither patient or understanding. Namely, the governor.

Gov. Jodi Rell sent a letter to the office the same day the error occurred, demanding an explanation and requiring the agency to report to her no later than Feb. 7 on the cause of the problem.

In her letter to James Thomas, commissioner of the state’s Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Rell wrote that she was “extremely concerned about the false emergency message.”

“Regardless of whether this resulted from ‘human error’ or a ‘technical problem,’ we can not permit a false message to be transmitted again, as it undermines the public’s confidence in the entire emergency notification system,” the governor wrote.

On the upside, media outlets reported that few if any people rushed out of Connecticut, and the announcement’s main effect seemed to be a few panicked people and a rash of phone calls to law-enforcement agencies asking for an explanation.