Blue Alert Sent Out to North Dakota Cell Phones Causes Mass Confusion

While I was wrapping up my radio show today I, like most of you I’m sure, got something called a “blue alert” on my cell phone.

The alert contained almost no information. Having no idea what a “blue alert” is I turned to Google even as my producer Nateal began answering a tidal wave of phone calls to the station. We didn’t have much to tell the listeners because we had no idea what was going on.

The State of North Dakota’s website has a page explaining the alerts, but it was down when I clicked. I’m assuming because just about every person in North Dakota with a cell phone was doing the same thing I was.

The news media is just beginning to report on what happened. Apparently there was an assault against a Bismarck police officer and the alleged perpetrator is still on the loose.

A potentially dangerous person on the run is obviously something the public should be alerted to, but did the whole state need to get an alert? And one so fundamentally uninformative? The first alert I got said only “blue alert.” The second had a link to the State of North Dakota website…which wasn’t working.

I think this comment from a reader on Facebook sums up the problem well:

I’m also hearing from a lot of people on social media who said the alerts didn’t go out to everyone:

Also, this isn’t good:


In Hawaii recently a state official accidentally sent out a public alert about a non-existent threat from an inbound nuclear missile. It caused mass hysteria.

This “blue alert” here in North Dakota wasn’t anywhere near so frightening as that situation, but it was still unnerving. And confusing.

Let’s hope state officials do a better job with this sort of thing going forward.

Here’s a Facebook posting from the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services put well after the original “blue alert” confused the hell out of everyone.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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