No one should ever screw around on a public alert system. But considering it’s been a bad year for warning systems — from the Hawaii false emergency alert accidentally informing the public of an incoming missile that didn’t exist to the National Weather Service’s false tsunami warning to the Department of Justice’s Amber Alert site issues that redirected visitors to porn sites — now is an especially bad time for someone to be screwing around on an alert system.
But that may have been what happened when the city of Lake Worth, Florida, sent out a “zombie alert” during a power outage around 1:45am Sunday.
— The Palm Beach Post (@pbpost) May 21, 2018
“There are now far less than seven-thousand-three-hundred-eighty customers involved due to extreme zombie activity,” the alert states. (Get it? There are fewer customers because many are zombies now!)
The message said the alert was for “residents of Lake Worth and Terminus.” Since Terminus is a location in The Walking Dead, it seems likely this message was sent out as a joke or was the result of a hack.
The city public information officer, Ben Kerr, told Gizmodo this has been a reoccurring issue. “We first became aware of the zombie messages during Hurricane Irma,” Kerr told Gizmodo. He doesn’t know when the culprit got into the system and changed the messages, but the city noticed during the August 2017 hurricane because many (zombie-tainted) outage alerts were going out. At the time, the city was able to attend to the message issues before the public noticed.
Lake Worth’s electric utility system is set up to send out automatic alerts when there’s an outage. The system has thousands of pre-programmed messages, Kerr explained. But it seems that at some point someone went through and messed with some of the messages to turn them into zombie jokes. “The actual power systems were not in any way compromised. This is a separate messaging system that at some point has been compromised,” Kerr said. “They just added a zombie fantasy.”
Kerr says the city has is investigating the prank, and has finally scrubbed all the zombie messages from the system.