Verizon Wireless was forced to issue an apology on Monday after the wireless carrier sent out a mass text message warning thousands of people in New Jersey of a "civil emergency" and an "extreme threat to life." The text urged people to "take shelter before 1:24pm". It was sent out at 12:26pm on Monday to cell phone users in four New Jersey counties, including Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris and Ocean.
The text message caused panic, and induced a state of shock and confusion in many people. Police departments and county authorities confirmed that they received a high volume of 911 calls from concerned residents who were wondering if there was an actual emergency.
Two hours after the text message was sent out, Verizon issued an apology indicating that it was a "test emergency notification" that failed to identify itself as a test. Verizon spokesperson David Samberg said:
"This test message was not clearly identified as a test. We apologize for any inconvenience or concern this message may have caused."
Before Verizon admitted that it was a mistake, authorities believed that the text message may have been the work of hackers. The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security was also prompted to issue a special statement on Twitter reassuring citizens that there was no actual emergency.