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Verizon customers in New Jersey alarmed after emergency alert

December 12, 2011 |  6:09 pm

There was a situation in New Jersey on Monday.

The state that was the scene for Orson Welles' 1938 "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast -- you know, the one that triggered mass panic among listeners who believed a martian invasion was occurring -- faced a bit of a scare Monday. Verizonalert

Verizon Wireless sent an emergency alert via text to wireless customers in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties warning of a "civil emergency" and telling people to "take shelter now," according to the Associated Press. The message was intended to be a test but wasn't labeled as such, the company later said. The alert reportedly started a chain reaction across a wide swatch of central New Jersey, prompting a high volume of 911 calls.

"Within about 90 minutes, the state homeland security and emergency management offices posted on Twitter that no emergency existed, but by then people had called a variety of local, county and state agencies to express their concerns," the AP report said. 

A Verizon spokeswoman told the AP in an email that the company was sorry for any inconvenience caused, but didn't say why the message was sent without being labeled as a test.

Several people in New Jersey took to Twitter after receiving the text.

"I figured it was a hoax when I was still alive," tweeted Kevin Tor.

"Of course I fit the qualifications for this emergency alert text," Kelly Khadam-Hir said. 

But it wasn't all bad news.

"Just got out early [because] of an emergency alert," said Twitter user Jen Vincentini, who then thanked the telecommunications company.


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Photo: Twitter user Mike Wren posted this photo of Verizon's "civil emergency" alert Monday. Credit: Mike Wren