OUACHITA PARISH (10/3/18) – 1:18 p.m. Central Time we all got an unusual text message.
“We were getting bombed or something?”, asked resident Robert Terlouw.
“Are we being attacked?”, said Laci Walker.
“I literally just picked it up and muted it”, said Alana Wilson.
“I thought there was going to be a huge storm coming”, said Memphis Hensel.
It was an alert straight from President Trump testing the new Wireless Emergency Alert System.
“One text message that will hit everyone in the nation such as if we had another 9/11”, said Neal Brown, director of Homeland Security for Ouachita Parish.
“I didn’t get it”, said one resident.
Those without a smartphone might have been left out. But for the hundreds of millions of people with one, as long as your phone is on you’ll get the alert. Citizens can’t opt out like other emergency alerts and it will only be used for catastrophic events.
“Things that could take lives or damage a lot of property”, said Brown.
Within seconds everyone across the country would know about it. The emergency alert system has been in place for years.
“Local radio stations it would come across the television”, said Brown.
But officials say in the age of technology it was time to upgrade how the government alerts residents.
“A very large percentage of people starting from about 12 years old on up have a cell phone”, said Brown.
Thirteen-year-old Robert Terlouw was in school when his phone started buzzing.
“I didn’t know what it was so I flipped it over and it said something about an alert”, said Terlouw.
The alert left some left wondering if the government was using this alert as a way to track people. Brown says that’s not the case.
“It’s sent out from the tower as a blast to all phones that are receiving a signal from that particular tower”, said Brown.
Laci Walker fears test alerts could cause a false panic for some.
“People like me could freak out”, said Walker.
But keeping the public aware of emergencies is could make all the difference if danger strikes.
“Even though it interrupted school it could save multiple lives”, said Memphis Hensel.
Brown says Ouachita Parish is considering using the same technology for smaller-scale warnings in our area, such as severe weather headed our way.