Roanoke County has released the following statement about the 911 test this morning that inadvertently resulted in 30,000 households getting a false warning that an armed inmate was on the loose:
– A test alert message about an escaped inmate that went out via phone, text, and email from Roanoke County this morning was a test message generated by Roanoke County’s new emergency alert system – there never was an escaped inmate.
The test alert message went out to approximately 30,000 households and businesses in Roanoke County within 15 minutes. The fact it went out to so many people was a mistake and Roanoke County apologizes for the error and any confusion it may have caused.
Roanoke County is planning to launch its new emergency alert system to the public in mid-to-late August using a software program provided by Twenty First Century Communications. The County currently has a test group of about 300 people – mostly Roanoke County employees- who’ve been receiving test alert messages this month from staff in Roanoke County’s Emergency Communications Center to ensure that the system is working properly.
This morning, the test alert message about an escaped inmate should’ve only gone to the test group but mistakenly went to landlines throughout Roanoke County. The test messages from Roanoke County should have displayed on a person’s Caller ID as RoCo Alert – this is the name Roanoke County has given to its Emergency Alert System.
Roanoke County was able to stop the message or even more households and businesses would have received the test alert. Roanoke County also sent a follow-up message to the Roanoke County households and businesses that received the initial alert reminding them that the message they received was indeed a test message and to disregard the information.
Below is a narrative of the voice messages that were sent to Roanoke County households and businesses:
THIS IS A TEST: This is an emergency notification from Roanoke County. Please do not hang up. As of July 31, 2012; 9:55 am, an inmate escaped during a transport from I81 SB exit 140 headed toward Catawba Valley Dr. The Roanoke County Police Department and Deputies from the Roanoke County Sheriff’s Office are attempting to locate Robert Smith 6’0 blue eyes, blonde hair, 180 pds; If you see this person please call 9-1-1 and report sighting. For further information call Lt Artz 540-387-6141 . Do not call 911 unless you have an emergency. THIS IS A TEST
PLEASE DISREGARD THE PREVIOUS MESSAGE, THIS IS A TEST OF THE RO CO ALERTS EMERGENCY SYSTEM. PLEASE DISREGARD THIS PREVIOUS MESSAGE, THERE IS NO ESCAPED PRISONER.