The message, which claimed a Nuclear Power Plant Warning was in effect for the two New Jersey counties, was broadcast on television, prompting thousands of phone calls from panicked residents to Cumberland County dispatchers.
Officials say the alert was a false alarm and they were conducting their regularly scheduled exercise with the PSEG Salem/Hope Creek Nuclear Power Station. A training message was created in order to test an electronic communications system at 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.
The message was intended for a small group of emergency management personnel who were participating in the exercise but was publicly broadcast due to a coding error, officials said. The coding error was later identified and corrected.
"The message was not initiated from the County level but from the State of New Jersey," Cumberland County public safety director and OEM coordinator Ed Conrow said Wednesday.
Cumberland County OEM said it initiated its SwiftReach reverse 911 to alert residents of the false alarm. After a little more than an hour, more than 69,000 calls were made with less than half answered, OEM said.
Officials say residents in both counties have nothing to worry about and there is no warning or emergency in effect. They apologized for the mistake.