People throughout Waukesha County, Wisconsin and some in Milwaukee and Washington Counties received an emergency “shelter in place” alert erroneously because the incident only applies to the Village of Butler, communication officials confirmed to Heavy.
Heavy contacted Butler police about the alert, and the Waukesha County Communications center answered. The dispatcher who answered said the alert relates to an “active police investigation in the Village Butler” and that authorities were “requesting that people shelter in place” in that community. Butler is a village of about 1,800 people located in Waukesha County, Wisconsin.
The Butler police chief was not available for comment because the incident was still ongoing at 4:15 p.m. on May 15, 2020. However, Duane Bondar, communications center supervisor for Waukesha County Communications Center, also confirmed to Heavy in an interview that the shelter-in-place request only relates to the Village of Butler.
He said that authorities aren’t releasing any details about the incident yet, including the nature of it. According to Bondar, officials are aware that people received the shelter-in-place alert who don’t live in the Village of Butler. Most of the people who mistakenly received the emergency alert live in Waukesha County, he said, but some people in Milwaukee and Washington Counties also got the alert.
According to Bondar, calls have been rolling into the Police Department from people with questions about the alert. He said the alert’s parameters are supposed to be determined through geo fencing technology. Authorities researched why it went to people outside the Village of Butler and were told it “depends on the make and model of the phone, the cell towers, and the broadcast area,” said Bondar.
“People outside of the geo fence were getting the message,” he confirmed.
The Butler police did send a follow up message that advised Butler police were working on an incident and would advise when it was all clear. The incident started around 3 p.m., he said.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Alert Confused People Who Received it
People who received the alert took to social media to raise questions about what it meant. That was especially true because Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order was just overturned by the state Supreme Court. The shelter-in-place request from Butler PD is different from the Safer at Home order.
The first alert was cryptic, according to screenshots people posted on Facebook. “Please shelter in place, we will advise when all is clear,” it read.
Washington Insider also reported that people in Washington County received the alert.
The second message read, “This is the Butler PD, we are working an incident in the area of 127th/Peck Place. Please shelter in place, we will advise when all is clear.” That message came in around 3:22 p.m.
The Hartford Police Department wrote on its Facebook page, “We have been made aware from citizens that a ‘shelter in place’ message has been sent to cell phones. At this time there is no current emergency in the City of Hartford or Washington County. It is unknown to us how or who sent the message. ***We have been made aware that the message was sent by Butler PD for a situation in one of their neighborhoods.”