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Oops! 'Evacuation' alarm was false

An automated telephone alert warns residents to evacuate at 4:59 p.m. today -- but they didn't mean it

East Palo Alto residents received an alarming phone call at 4:59 p.m. on Tuesday after the city's automated dial-up alert system told residents to evacuate. But it was a false alarm.

The message was a replay of the Sept. 9 San Bruno fire evacuation alert that the dial-up system contractor, "First Call," dispatched to San Bruno residents, residents who received the message said.

The message from the San Mateo County Sheriff told residents of a voluntary evacuation and location of an evacuation center. It mentioned the San Bruno fire. But on some residents' message machines, only part of the recording was picked up. Those residents only heard about an evacuation but did not know it pertained to the San Bruno fire, they said.

Police dispatch confirmed that the message was in error and said the department was calling people back trying to notify residents.

The message was actually supposed to inform residents of a city-wide "water master plan" meeting on Oct. 19. That message was sent at 6:11 p.m.

At 7:49 p.m. the Office of Emergency Services contacted residents and canceled the evacuation alert and apologized for the error.

Police did not say the reason for the error.

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