Human error blamed for that 4:45 a.m. Emergency Alert System test in Florida, CEO says

Human errors and a breakdown in routine precautionary procedures are what led to millions of Floridians being unexpectedly awakened at 4:45 a.m. last week by an Emergency Alert that turned out to be part of a monthly test and shouldn't have been sent out to cell phones.

In an open letter addressed "to anyone awakened at 4:45 a.m. ET on April 20th," Everbridge CEO David Wagner apologized for the early morning alert and sought to explain what happened – and why.

"Essentially, human errors caused the alert to go out, in violation of a number of routine precautionary steps that should have been followed prior to the release of any emergency notification," Wagner wrote.

"Customers who operate our systems run monthly tests, required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), on mobile and broadcast networks to keep you informed. In this instance, our system delivered the message as designed – that’s the good news. The bad news is a live message was inadvertently sent to millions of residents’ cellphones, instead of a notification sent only to Florida broadcasters. That notification should not have been sent to you."

The fallout was rapid: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis quickly called for "swift accountability" regarding what happened, referring to the inadvertent alert as a "completely inappropriate" County-level emergency management divisions were quick to alert the public that they hadn't sent out the alert, and then had to defend the system as information about how to turn those alert notifications off spread online (officials do not recommend doing this).

Everbridge is a Massachusetts company that provides emergency alert management systems and was – until last week – contracted with the State of Florida to handle those alerts. That contract, which was set to expire in 2024, was canceled by the Florida Department of Emergency Management last week, officials confirmed to FOX 35.

In his letter, CEO Wagner said the company would re-examine its procedures and add additional safeguards.