Thousands of Verizon customers across New Jersey received a terrifying text at 12:26 p.m. today from the National Emergency Alert System — an "extreme alert" message that led them to think the country was under attack.
The message read:
Civil Emergency in this area until 1:24 PM EST
Take Shelter Now U.S. Govern
Alert type: Extreme alert
Severity: Extreme (Extraordinary threat to life or property)
Urgency: Immediate (Responsive action should be taken immediately)
Alert response type: Shelter (Take shelter in place)
Alert category: Safety (General emergency and public safety)
Certainty: Observed (Determined to have occurred or to be ongoing)
"Take shelter in place." Great, will do. Care to be a little more specific? Concrete bunker, maybe? Last flight to the moon? Luckily, residents of Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties who received the message weren't forced to find out the hard way, as the transmission was quickly labeled a "hoax" by local police. The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security then issued a tweet stating the alert was fake:
Citizens of several counties have been receiving a 'Civil alert. Take shelter before 1:24 pm.' ****CURRENTLY, THERE IS NO EMERGENCY!!!****
Verizon has so far "given no indication that the message was sent out intentionally," meaning that this wasn't in fact the work of a hacker, but instead the accidental issue of a test message that would go out in the event of say, a nuclear warhead making its way towards Giants Stadium. Either way, New Jersey was a more terrifying place than usual to live today. Hug your Snookis a little a harder tonight.
UPDATE: Verizon has issued an apology:
"This test message was not clearly identified as a test," a Verizon spokesperson said in a statement issued two hours after the text alert went out. "We apologize for any inconvenience or concern this message may have caused."