Talk about a false alarm.
Residents in Canada’s Ontario province woke up Sunday morning to a startling message that warned of an unspecified “incident” occurring at a nearby nuclear power plant.
“Emergency Alert. This is a Province of Ontario emergency bulletin which applies to people within ten kilometers of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station,” the message read, according to a screenshot of the alert obtained by the Associated Press.
“An incident was reported,” it continued. “There has been NO abnormal release of radioactivity from the station and emergency staff are responding to the situation. People near the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station DO NOT need to take any protective actions at this time.”
It wasn’t until an hour later that a second alert was pushed out to the province’s 14 million residents that clarified the first alert was sent by mistake, according to AP.
“Important update: the alert regarding #Pickering Nuclear was sent in error,” a tweet from the Ontario Power Generation on Sunday read. “There is no danger to the public or environment.”
The message was transmitted during a routine training exercise performed by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, the AP reported.
“[The government will] take the appropriate steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a statement apologizing for the mistake.
But the initial warning was enough to cause some residents to flee for their lives.
Jim Vlahos, a Toronto resident, said he immediately made hotel reservations 60 miles away from the area after receiving the alert. He was partially compelled to do so after watching HBO’s hit series Chernobyl, which shows the devastation of the nuclear disaster that occurred in April 1986.
“Having watched Chernobyl didn’t help,” Vlahos told the AP. “The lack of communication following the alert didn’t help either.”
Dave Ryan, mayor of the Southern Ontario city of Pickering, said he was asking for a full investigation into the mishap.
I’m demanding a full investigation as to why this error occurred. https://t.co/8AUHjmHsfQ— Mayor Dave Ryan (@mayordaveryan) January 12, 2020
“Like many of you, I was very troubled to have received that emergency alert this morning,” he tweeted on Sunday. “While I am relieved that there was no actual emergency, I am upset that an error such as this occurred. I have spoken to the Province, and am demanding that a full investigation take place.”
This is not the first time in recent memory that a mistaken alert was sent out to millions of people.
In 2018, Hawaiians were sent an emergency push alert that told them to “seek immediate shelter” from an incoming ballistic missile threat. It was “an extreme alert” and “not a drill,” the message warned.
It was later clarified that the alert was sent out accidentally by a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee.