Virginia Beach, Virginia officials are under fire for sending out a reverse 911 message around 2:15 a.m Thursday morning, informing residents that a road had reopened.
As reported by WAVY 10, there was a tragic fatal accident on the 500 block of Sandbridge road on Wednesday night, which forced the road closure. When Sandbridge was eventually reopened, the reverse 911 robocalls went out on Thursday morning through the VB Alert mass notification system.
A 911 operator mistakenly sent a message intended for only 175 residents in the Sandbridge area, to 99,850 city residents. Residents living far from Sandbridge road called in to complain about the message and eventually the alert was cancelled before all of the system’s 273,000 residents were called.
After the mistake many residents took to social media voicing their anger and asking why a message like this was sent out at all, and why during the 2 a.m.hour when there was reportedly no danger posed by the road closure. WTKR NewsChannel 3 spoke to resident Donald Olverson, who was alarmed by the early morning message fearing the worst. “Is it really a story that should run on the tail of something so horrific? But it kind of has to be told. You know, I mean they, the city of Virginia Beach cannot be panicking people in the middle of the night,” said Olverson. “Receiving a reverse 911 call at 2:30 in the morning notifying you that a road has been reopened to me is a misuse of the system.”
WAVY spoke to Virginia Beach Director of Emergency Communications and Citizen Services, Athena Plummer who said, “The notice was sent to all users where it should have just been sent out to what we have as a group, the Sandbridge group. So that’s where the error was made and we accept full responsibility for sending it out to all users in particular at that time in the morning.”
An apologetic Plummer continued, “We’re going to review our policy. We’re going to review the way the system is set up. We’re going to make sure that our users who are authorized to use the system are using the system correctly. We’re also going to talk about when we send these messages and how the message goes out.”
Olverson has thoughts about the emergency communication system and said, “That stuff should be reserved for things like, there’s a tsunami coming, or there’s a you know, a nuclear reactor meltdown in Norfolk, or something where people need to be notified. Not that there’s a road that’s been reopened and nobody knowing why that road was reopened.”
The VB Alert website lists some events that can prompt an alert from the system including in part, weather warnings, hostage situations, and HazMat spills. Road closure warnings are not listed.