Marin County residents confused after receiving emergency alert by mistake

Napa County Emergency Operations said the emergency alert message "bled over" from the targeted area into neighboring counties.
MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Marin County residents were surprised to receive an emergency alert on their cellphones Thursday and Friday, telling them to "leave the area if they felt unsafe." The only issue is that there were no new fires burning in Marin County and no evacuations orders given.

It was Napa County's wireless emergency alert system that put out the following warning: "Fire Danger. Stay Alert and leave area if your feel unsafe."

LIST: Wildfires prompt evacuation orders & warnings in Napa, Sonoma counties

The alert was also sent out to people in Solano, Contra Costa, Sonoma and Marin counties.

Some in Marin were surprised and not sure it applied to them.

"Of course not, I don't know where the fire is but it's not here," said one resident.

Some began calling 911.

"Where's the fire? Should I evacuate or shouldn't I?" Those were some of the calls received.

That's when the Marin County Sheriff's quickly sent out an advisory stating: "This message was not intended for Marin County residents but was received by many in Marin. There is no new fire burning in Marin and no evacuation orders in effect."

VIDEO: How to prepare for a wildfire evacuation
EMBED More News Videos

If there's time, here is a list of essentials to take with you during a wildfire evacuation. Above all else, follow the instructions given and get out of harm's way.

Napa County Emergency Operations Friday said the message "bled over" from the targeted area into neighboring counties.

How does that happen?

"Times you've been out hiking or something you are in a remote area and you'll crest the hill and suddenly you'll have a cellphone signal. That cellphone signal may be from many, many miles away... maybe another peak in another county," explained Woody Baker-Cohn of the Marin County Sheriff's Office.

Allison Johnson, a Martinez resident, reached out to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District. She wrote, "We have to believe these warnings or they won't work!"

This confusion could have been avoided if they had made it clear in the emergency text that the warning applied ONLY to Napa County. They never did.

The Marin County Sheriff's Office also told people here not to disable the alerting system on their cellphones since it is a critical tool during a wildfire or other large emergencies.

Having trouble viewing the map? Click here to open it in a new window.

Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.