HARVEY CEDARS, N.J. (FOX 5 NY) - As the National Weather Service tested its tsunami alert system on Monday, at least one coastal community in New Jersey thought the threat was real.
The National Tsunami Warning Center issued the test tsunami warning at 1:06 p.m. Eastern time. The message was labeled "TSUNAMI WARNING" and included the disclaimers "TEST...Tsunami Message Number 1...TEST" and "...THIS_MESSAGE_IS_FOR_TEST_PURPOSES_ONLY...," according to the version of the alert transmitted by the Associated Press to its members, including FOX 5 NY.
But the Harvey Cedars Police Department on Long Beach Island retransmitted the alert as if the danger from an approaching tsunami was real.
The police department uses a broadcast system called Nixle to automatically inform the public via email and text message of various types of alerts.
At 1:28 p.m., the department sent a Nixle alert to its subscribers containing the NWS test message and the comment "Tsunami Warning until 02:06PM." That message was also cross-posted to the department's Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Four minutes later, the department followed up with "DISREGARD!!"
After the department reportedly investigated what had happened, it said, "According to NWS MountHolly they were testing their system..it worked. Our apologies for any concerns."
Shortly after that, the department shared a brief statement from the chief of police.
"We apologize for the scare and are working on a solution to prevent this from happening again," Chief Robert Burnaford said.