VIRGINIA BEACH -- Dozens of angry and frustrated Virginia Beach residents have called, sent emails and posted to the WVEC13 Facebook page about getting automated calls in the middle of the night.
The calls alerted them to the reopening of Sandbridge Road following a deadly crash Wednesday night. The crash, which happened around 7 p.m., closed the road until just after 2 a.m. Thursday.
City officials told WVEC.com that 99,895 telephone numbers received the call when only 175 should have received it. Around 10 a.m., the city tweeted an apology - "The city apologizes for the early morning VBAlert message that went to unintended citizens. We are currently investigating error."
One caller said she got the call and she doesn't live anywhere near Sandbridge.
Debbie G. posted on Facebook: "We need to be able to opt out of these VB alerts -- I nearly had a heart attack when my phone rang last nite at 2:30 to tell me the road had re-opened. I thought something happened to my mother."
Sheilla PM added, "Finally fell asleep last night at aprox. 12am. And why do I get a call at my home from The city of Virginia Beach about 2:15am and woke me up? Really at 2am ??? And regarding some road opening? I would like to know who's responsible for that bright idea?"
Debbie G. wondered, "Anyone else in Virginia Beach get a 2 A.M. mass call from the city of Virginia Beach that a road had reopened?? We were asleep, it was 2A.M. in the morning. Really!! I pray for the people involved or hurt in an accident. But calling at 2am seems a little over the top."
Krintia D. agrees. "They really need not to do these between midnight & 6am."
According to the Virginia Beach Alerts Web page, notifications are sent when there is a public safety incident. VBAlert messages are automatically sent to landline telephones in the affected area of the city.
Lori A. Stiles, the 911 Operations Center Manager/ENP, told WVEC.com Thursday, "Emergency Communications and Citizen Services (ECCS) did send out a VBALERT this morning at approximately 02:04 am as a follow up to a notification that went out previously regarding the closure of Sandbridge Rd. It does appear that the message was transmitted past the intended audience. ECCS is looking into the factors that may have caused the extended notification and will take steps to eliminate it occurring in future VBALERT notifications. The City apologizes for any inconvenience this has caused."
In a statement Thursday morning and posted on its Facebook page, Virginia Beach Police said "This message was intended for a small portion of the city. It is unknown at this time why it went beyond the intended audience.
We ask for patience from everyone as this matter is looked into. Police said the VBALert system is a tool for public safety and to the benefit of the public and the first responders who deal with these emergencies.
Stiles said there is no “opt out” feature for emergency messages delivered by VBALERT. However, she said residents can manage some of the parameters of the alerts through the VBeach Alerts Web page, Under the FAQ section, it says go to the "Locations" tab to select geographic points of interest so you can receive alerts targeted to the location. The "My Alerts" tab lets you sign up for notifications targeted to different groups.