Reverse 911 calls sent through Virginia Beach’s mass notification system created controversy when thousands of residents heard their phones ring at 2:15 am to inform them that a road had re-opened.
The calls came after a fatal accident on the 500 block of Sandbridge Road on Wednesday that forced the road to close as emergency crews tended to the crash. But when the road re-opened, the Virginia Beach 911 dispatch mistakenly sent a message intended for the 175 residents along Sandbridge road to 99,850 city residents.
“The notice was sent to all users where it should have just been sent out to what we have as a group, the Sandbridge group. So that’s where the error was made and we accept full responsibility for sending it out to all users in particular at that time in the morning,” said Athena Plummer, Virginia Beach Director of Emergency Communications and Citizen Services.
It would have sent out to all 273,000 residents in the city, but the dispatch center learned about the the unexpected wakeup in time to stop the calls.
Many Virginia Beach residents took to social media to complain about the reverse 911 calls and said they expected something much worse when their phones rang at 2:15 am.
“Is it really a story that should run on the tail of something so horrific? But it kind of has to be told. You know, I mean they, the city of Virginia Beach cannot be panicking people in the middle of the night,” esident Donald Olverson told WTKR NewsChannel 3. “Receiving a reverse 911 call at 2:30 in the morning notifying you that a road has been reopened to me is a misuse of the system.
Virginia Beach Emergency Communications said they will review their policies, but this isn’t the first time the city has gotten in trouble because of reverse 911 calls. In 2013 the police department was forced to defend its decision to call 17,000 residents in the middle of the night to alert them that a 12-year-old girl was missing. The girl was later found, having sneaked out of her home at night.