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May-29-2018 23:48printcomments

Thousands of Oregonians Frightened by Emergency Alert Issued Without Explanation

What does "Prepare for Action" mean, anyway?

emergency message
Emergency alert message received by perhaps 200,000 Oregonians.

(SALEM, Ore.) - We are all used to the emergency alert system tests. They happen periodically, and are easily understood. Tonight, an actual Emergency Alert was issued and sounded across over a hundred thousand phones, but without any explanation.

The alert said there was a "civil emergency", yet gave no indication as to what type of emergency it was or what citizens should do. It was an amazing lack of information from an agency whose entire mission is to share information.

People outside of Salem as far as Sherwood, Willamina and Eugene were taken aback with the erroneous message of could-be imminent doom. As it turns out, it was a water alert. Not North Korea. That would have been nice to know for about 45 minutes while everyone ran circles trying to decide what to do when they didn't know what was wrong.

This is a true failure of our emergency system. Below is the "Drinking Water Advisory" that started this whole thing. It is an important advisory, regardless of this faux pas .

Some comments on social media:

Is this what caused my phone to go off? It called it a "civil emergency" and "be prepared to take action". I thought the zombie apocalypse was starting.

I thought there was a killer on the loose I locked my door.

I was wondering what do I need to do, get undercover, get the guns, run.... what am I preparing for

I felt the same way, locked doors, pulled blinds, shivering in my boots, well bare feet exactly. Are our wells contaminated if we live in the surrounding areas?

I appreciate the heads up on the water, but if you send me an anonymous text on a Tuesday night that just says "PREPARE FOR ACTION," it's going to result in me trying to cram my cat and my wine cellar in my Prius, and that's just a scenario where nobody wins.

Yes, I would like to know what action I need to be prepared for.

I live in Keizer and we got the alert so did people in Dallas.. Just said be prepared to take action...Wtf does that mean?

Hunker down with a gas mask and drink bottled water while loading my AR-15 while sitting in a basement after taping up a vapor barrier?

Absolutely unacceptable. I demand better from our public officials.

So the people with access to that system are simply incompetent? Very comforting, thanks!

OregonOEM: The Emergency Alert Message at 8:29 PM was to support the water service area for the Detroit Water Reservoir. The system unfortunately removed the details of this message and reverted to the default material. A repaired message was sent at 9:00 PM. (10:19 PM - 29 May 2018)

Metcom 911: Information regarding emergency alert: We understand people are confused and frustrated regarding the vague emergency alert received on mobile devices. The alert was sent by Oregon Emergency Management regarding the City of Salem drinking water advisory. Unfortunately the alert lacked details. We have asked OEM to revise the alert. This particular alert was not sent by our agency. (9:39 PM - 29 May 2018)

Marion Co. Sheriff: THERE IS NO CIVIL EMERGENCY. The message was intended to notify those affected by the water issue in Salem. PLEASE DO NOT CALL 911. (8:43 PM - 29 May 2018)


A press release was received at 11:11, from the OEM: At approximately 8:50 p.m., a wireless emergency alert (WEA) was issued by Oregon's Office of Emergency Management. The alert, which was requested by the City of Salem to alert local residents about a drinking water advisory, defaulted to "civil emergency" verbiage.

This was a technology issue which OEM is currently working to learn how and why it happened. Subsequently, a revised/corrected alert was sent to provide appropriate information.

The information that the public needs to know was posted to the City of Salem website and is offered below.

OEM understands that the default message caused concern among residents and is working to learn the issues to be corrected.

Drinking Water Advisory

Do Not Drink the Tap Water

Applies to City of Salem, City of Turner, Suburban East Salem Water District and Orchard Heights Water Association

The advisory: Low levels of cylindrospermopsin and microcystin (cyanotoxins) have been found in treated drining water. These toxins are created by algal blooms in the source of City of Salem drinking water, Detroit Resovoir.

To ensure the greatest quality of drinking water, City of Salem voluntarily samples for such toxins during algal events. Samples were collected on May 23, 2018 and May 25, 2018. Results confirmed the presence of cyanotoxins in the drinking water at levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Cyanotoxins National Drinking Water Health Advisories.

Levels of toxins have been detected in the City of Salem water system that supplies water to City of Salem, City of Turner, Suburban East Salem Water District and Orchard Heights Water Association.

Children under the age of six, people with compromised immune systems, people receiving dialysis treatment, people with pre-existing liver conditions, pets, pregnant women or nursing mothers, or other sensitive populations should follow this advisory.

At this time people not on this list may continue to drink the water unless additional messaging is received. Please visit for the most up-to-date information.

Bottled water should be used for drinking, making infant formula, making ice and preparing food and beverages. [END]


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