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FALSE ALARM: Pickering nuclear plant fine, Ontario smart phones sent emergency texts

Many Ontario residents were awoken by their smart phones Sunday morning warning them of an incident at a nuclear power plant in Pickering.
Graeme Gordon Montreal, QC

No, Ontario isn’t about to have the next Chernobyl or Fukushima nuclear disaster.

An alarm that was sent to Ontarians’ smart phones at 7:23 a.m. Sunday morning warned residents that there was an “incident” at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.

“This is a Province of Ontario emergency bulletin which applies to people within ten (10) kilometres of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. An incident was reported at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station . There has been NO abnormal release of radioactivity from the station and emergency staff are responding to the situation . People near the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station DO NOT need to take any protective actions at this time,” read the emergency alert.

A second message sent to Ontarians’ phones later cleared the air and the anxiety the first message caused residents, letting them know they weren’t going to be burned to death in a nuclear apocalypse.

“There is NO active nuclear situation taking place at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. The previous alert was issued in error. There is no danger to the public or the environment. No further action is required.”

Premier Doug Ford’s Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones, released a statement a 12:29 p.m. addressing the false alarm:

“Earlier today, an emergency alert was issued by the Province of Ontario stating there was a situation at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. The alert was issued in error to the public during a routine training exercise being conducted by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC).

“There was no incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station that should have triggered public notification. Nor was there ever any danger to the public or environment.

“Emergency exercises are a critical component of ensuring preparedness for emergency management and response agencies. The PEOC conducts training exercises regularly and there was no intention to notify the public in this instance.

“The Government of Ontario sincerely apologizes for raising public concern and has begun a full investigation to determine how this error happened and will take the appropriate steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Top trends on Twitter quickly became “Pickering”, “Chernobyl” and “#everythingisfine”, with many creating memes to laugh off or mock the government-issued the false alarm.

Some residents near the Pickering nuclear plant reminded others that in case of a real emergency those living near the power station can get pills from the government.

This latest false alarm raises questions for Pelmorex, parent company of the Weather Network, its Alert Ready system (the software used to send out the mass emergency messages to Canadians’ smart phones, including Amber Alerts) and the Ontario government.

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Graeme Gordon
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