According to FEMA region spokesperson in New York, Lauren Lefebvre, New York federal officials are investigating an emergency alert system after a wrongfully abbreviated message told Long Island residents to evacuate the area before Hurricane Hermine hit. They will be checking to see what caused the shortening of the message. This was a report received by authorities on Sunday.
The confusion of Saturday night started when emergency officials from Suffolk County used a function of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s alarm system after it hadn’t been used ever since the time after Superstorm Sandy all those years ago. The intention was to tell the residents that voluntary evacuation was ordered for the Fire Island area which is a thin sliver of land on the side of Long Island’s southern shore and it is a very famous destination for summer.
The message that was actually broadcasted was only the first part of the intended message which basically said that an evacuation order was issued. The part about the evacuation being voluntary and only applied to people on Fire Island was never broadcasted on TV.
Gregory Miniutti who is the Department of Fire Rescue’s chief of communication for Suffolk County said that questions arose after this incident as could be expected. How many people saw the broadcasted alert was unclear but with census showing that there are almost 3 million residents living on Long Island, 1.5 million in Suffolk County and roughly another 1.3 residing in Nassau County the chances are that a great many may have noticed.
Miniutti said that after they realized that the alert that had been broadcasted carried an entirely different message than what was supposed to be conveyed at around 7:30pm on Saturday, county officials subsequently issued an alert to clarify the situation. The last time that emergency officials actually gained access to the FEMA broadcast system was after 2012, when major devastation, loss of life and flooding occurred across Long Island and throughout all of New Jersey and New York as Superstorm Sandy swept across the areas.
There is a different system that Suffolk County uses normally. This system makes use of text and reverse 911 calls to landline numbers to send mass notifications and emergency messages to those who live in an affected area. On Saturday, though, they decided to use the FEMA system for the broadcasting due to the fact that many of the people that was on Fire Island at the time were tourists and visitors who didn’t have landlines and haven’t signed up to get alerts via text in cases of emergency.
Hermine was clearly visible in the roughness of the surf and huge waves that pummeled the beaches. There was no swimming as residents awaited the passing of the storm.