While Monterey Park Fire Department officials blamed "testing" of the " Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) through FEMA," that's not really the whole story.
Somebody screwed up. And it appears to have been a violation of FCC rules:
A source with knowledge of the situation says an honest mistake was made, but a mistake nonetheless, when a third-party vendor helping Monterey Park manage its alert system perhaps misunderstood instructions from the city and blasted the "this is only a test" message -- live!
In other words, it was not supposed to reach your phone.
Test alerts are not supposed to go live, or use live code, the source says. In fact, live tests that rock our mobile phones are not supposed to happen at all -- the FCC apparently forbids it.
For good reason: The messages shook up many Angelenos. The first went out shortly after 2:15 p.m. yesterday, but they apparently happened more than once afterward:
Okay, Monterey Park, we got it -- again. pic.twitter.com/iJbXfaA62g— Zach Behrens (@ZachBehrens) December 5, 2013
The Monterey Park Fire Department seemed to acknowledge the problem:
Still receiving Emergency Alerts? You can disable your Emergency Notifications on your mobile
devices.http://t.co/9hHrZgl7VT— Monterey Park FD (@MPKFIRENEWS) December 5, 2013
A Monterey Park fire official suggested to the Weekly that compliance with Federal Emergency Management Agency rules about testing the smartphone alert system triggered the mistakes.
And the fire department tweeted this similar stance:
Monterey Park EOC was testing the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) through FEMA.— Monterey Park FD (@MPKFIRENEWS) December 5, 2013
But fire officials also apologized:
The Monterey Park Emergency Operations Center would like to apologize for Any inconvenience or cause for alarm during today's test.— Monterey Park FD (@MPKFIRENEWS) December 4, 2013
We reached out to the department several times to get a better explanation. But the folks who we were told were authorized to speak -- a captain and a battalion chief -- never returned our calls.