The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office says an emergency alert was accidentally sent to people countywide after a potentially armed suspect led deputies on a chase.
The chase began in Goleta and ended Wednesday near Hope Elementary School in Santa Barbara.
Deputies were concerned the suspect was armed and dangerous, so they decided to send out an emergency alert to people in the immediate area, asking them to shelter in place.
“We don’t use it unless it is an emergency with immediate risk,” said Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover.
However, Hoover says the system is set up in such a way that when it drew a map of the impacted area, it didn’t work properly and was instead sent to the entire county.
“I was with my grandchildren. We all hurried into the house and locked the door, and then I found out it’s not even in Santa Maria. It’s pretty scary to say shelter in place. I’m very happy for the alerts, but I do wish it was a little more site-specific,” said Pamela Cordero, who lives in Santa Maria and received the alert.
The Sheriff’s Office says it noticed the issue quickly and sent another alert notifying people that the suspect was in custody and was no longer a threat.
“Communication dispatchers have an incredibly difficult job, multi-tasking, handling serious situations. They felt it was important to get information out,” said Hoover. “The intentions were good. Dispatchers who had a genuine and legitimate concern for public safety felt that information needed to go out.”
Other law enforcement agencies, including Santa Maria Police and even Grover Beach Police, took to social media, telling people they didn’t need to worry about the incident if they weren’t in the Santa Barbara area.
Despite the issue, the Sheriff’s Office says this is a good opportunity for people to make sure they’re signed up for the correct alerts. If you didn’t receive a notification during this incident, deputies say you need to contact your phone provider.
The Sheriff’s Office also says in the event that you do receive an emergency alert, you should pay close attention and listen to what it says.