False tornado alarm.

Weather alert symbol with exclamation point triangle over storm clouds
Daily Progress says someone accidentally pressed a button next to a canned message during a training session. As a result, about 500 people who had signed up for alerts (I posted the link in an earlier story), received calls and text messages warning of a tornado. I was one of them. I had signed up a couple weeks earlier because my phone didn’t support WEA/CMAS mobile alerts. In the meantime, though, my phone got smashed (probably on the rough “road” to/from marshal manor repeater site) and I replaced it with a similar but newer model that does support WEA/CMAS. And thought it odd that I didn’t get alerts there or on the weather radio or TV. Since WEA/CMAS is a broadcast method while the other system makes calls and text messages to hundreds or thousands of subscribers, the WEA/CMAS method should be much more reliable, faster, and less likely to overload the phone system for those who have newer model cell phones but the other system offers an alternative for older cell phones and landlines.

This incident did function as a test of the system and gave me an idea how the messages would appear. The voice calls showed up as calls from the “ECC Non-Emergency Number”. Not because of caller ID name info, which the cell phone provider doesn’t provide, but because I already put that number in my phone to call in psuedo-emergencies and also because I can receive calls from that same number when i need to be deployed.

Here is a slightly edited version of the text message and voice call transcript.

+14349779041 Charlottesville, VA 8/7/13 10:31 AM
VOICE MESSAGE (transcribed): Tornado Warning for your area. Tornado Warning, take shelter now inside away from Windows. Check local media for storm update. 10:31 AM

TEXT 34292: Tornado Warning for your area. Tornado Warning. Take shelter now inside, away from windows. Check local media for storm updates. 10:31 AM
VOICE CALL: 10:43 AM. This one got through, required me to use DTMF to send a tone (which requires unlocking screen and requesting dial pad on touch screen) to receive message, which was still the false alarm message.
TEXT 34292: Tornado Warning was sent in error, please disregard the message, we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. ECC 10:43 AM

A very remarkable thing about the voice message that was left: google was able to transcribe Kirby’s voice without errors.

I received another alert that serves as a reminder that some local alerts are available that aren’t covered by WEA/CMAS:

8/10/13 9:29 PM
TEXT 40404: ¡CommEmerg: #Albemarle 3100 block of Proffit Rd near Pritchett Ln is closed due to a motor vehicle crash. CO95 m.twitter.com/CommEmerg 9:29 PM
See earlier story to see how you can sign up for (false) alerts.

Odd thing though, is that this comes from a different psuedo phone number than the other text alerts.

The three ECC numbers you need to know are

  • 911
  • 434-977-9041: ECC Non-Emergency Number. Answered by same dispatchers who answer 911 but at a lower priority.
  • 434-979-INFO – InfoLine, staffed by CERT volunteers, ECC staff, and other responders during an emergency. Just down the hall from the 911 call center.
  • And while you are at it, do you have ICE (In case of Emergency contact) numbers in your cell phone? ICE1, ICE2, etc. Note that many phones don’t let first responders access the address book with the ICE numbers from the lock screen (but some have facilities to access special ICE memories from the lock screen). In which case, you might put them on your Lock Screen background image along with the return lost phone to info.

    And don’t forget the wallet card. Phone won’t be much use if smashed, immersed, battery depleted, or left on your desk.

    Update (some newer alerts):
    8/21/13 6:13 PM

    40404: ¡CommEmerg: #cville #albemarle #UVA According the VDOT, I64 at 126 EB they have had “catastrophic” road failure and traffic is at a stand still CO84 5:55 PM
    40404: ¡CommEmerg: **UPDATE** VDOT says an emergency pothole repair is currently taking place on I-64 at MM 126. Work to take place until 7:30 p.m. CO84 6:13 PM

    This event didn’t seem to make the news.

    8/22/13 9:27 PM

    40404: ¡CommEmerg: #albemarle #cville # UVA The National Weather Service has issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warnning in effect until 230 PM. CO84 1:58 PM
    40404: ¡CommEmerg: The UVA warning system (siren) is malfunctioning. The University is aware of the problem and a maintenance person is enroute with about… 9:27 PM

    Story about the siren is here:

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