First published in the May 21 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
Glendale made waves last weekend when an exercise meant to simulate an evacuation drill scared many people in Los Angeles County into thinking there was an actual disaster in Chevy Chase Canyon.
The Glendale Fire Department last week announced its plans for the drill, which was meant to replicate a wildfire event that would necessitate an evacuation of the nearly 1,900 homes and other structures housing 5,500 residents there.
As part of that drill, the fire department utilized its mobile emergency-alert system to send a push alert announcing the evacuation to all cellular devices in the area.
Instead, shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday, that alert went throughout L.A. County, resulting in a deluge of confusion, amusement and derision on social media by people wagging their fingers at Glendale and sometimes wondering where Chevy Chase Canyon even was.
The city used the same system to push out a clarification that it was a drill and only directed at local residents, but by then, the virtual wildfire on Twitter was set.
Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas told the Los Angeles Times that the error occurred when the geographic field was drawn over Chevy Chase Canyon in the alert system.
A default setting in the program is to push alerts countywide if an area — formed as a polygon over a map — has more than 100 points, Lanzas said, which resulted in the inadvertent push.
In a statement this week, the city said it had investigated the cause and taken steps to implement new safeguards to avoid this in the future.
Lanzas, in that statement, apologized for the error, which likely heightened the anxiety of Southern California residents who are both leery and weary of the upcoming wildfire season and perpetually looming earthquake threats.
“Although the messaging error on Saturday has largely overshadowed the intent of the exercise, we cannot allow this error to take away from the importance and need for these types of drills,” he said.
“Planning and preparing for an emergency ahead of time is key to the safety of our residents and community and allows us to be better prepared. As we saw last week in Laguna Niguel, fires are burning faster, hotter and with more intensity than ever before,” he added.
Lanzas did not return phone calls by the News-Press this week.
Joining in the social media pile-on were memes from the Americana at Brand account, which borrowed a meme known as “the plan” from the comedic series “Nathan For You.”
“The plan?” the meme read. “Send an emergency alert to all of L.A., then say ‘Never mind Glendale residents only LOL’. Now, everyone is talking about Glendale!”
The Twitter account followed up with an altered screengrab of the public safety alert, capitalizing on the prior meme and merging it with classic Americana at Brand memes topics.
“But hey, since we’re talking about Glendale,” it read, “Did you know we have a Porto’s AND a Zankou? Just saying!”