EAS Evacuation Message Mix Up Causes Panic Across Region - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

EAS Evacuation Message Mix Up Causes Panic Across Region

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There was certainly some confusion Tuesday after an Emergency Alert System message was sent out requesting evacuations for the Bison Fire.

The alert was sent to people in 18 counties causing panic across the area. The message was intended for residents in Smith Valley.

So why did the alert reach so many people outside of that area?

We went to the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Alert System chair for the answer.

The lightning-sparked Bison Fire looked ominous all week long. But it wasn't a large threat to residents until Tuesday night.

That's when the Emergency Alert System (EAS) message was put out asking for immediate evacuations across 18 counties.

The problem is--those evacuations were only meant for people in Lyon County - and more specifically - Smith Valley.

"It did create quite a bit of confusion yesterday, and that's certainly something that in public safety we want to avoid as much as possible."

Chris Smith is the Chief of Emergency Management for the state. He says folks started to panic after seeing the message. And he's been receiving calls from frustrated residents ever since.

"I even talked to some news directors, and they were wanting to know how we can improve this in the future."

The good news is--improvements are on the way.

Adrienne Abbott is the State Chair of the Emergency Alert System. She says much of the blame goes to old and outdated equipment.

She and others are working diligently to acquire new programs that would send out more specific alert messages.

Abbott says it will make things much easier in situations like we saw Tuesday.

"Even though people in Washoe County and Carson City and all these other areas are going to see this information on their TVs, it will say that the evacuation order is for the Smith Valley area of Lyon County."

State officials say people have the right to be frustrated after all the confusion. And that's why they're working to correct the mistakes for the future.

"Everybody gets an opportunity to learn from mistakes, although in our business we consider mistakes to be really unacceptable," says Smith.

The programs and technology have already been bought. State officials hope to have it installed at Emergency Alert System agencies around the state within the next few weeks.

Written by Adam Rasmussen

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