Salem, Oregon is what you'd typically expect from a small coastal city in the North West. Even though it's the state capital, it only has a population around a hundred and fifty thousand. It maintains that charming small town feel, where neighbors still help each other out and motorists wave to pedestrians as they pass them on main street. The old style buildings and beautiful natural surroundings look like they were the setting of a movie, used by a set designer that wanted to portray the ultimate picturesque North Western town. But just a few days ago, all that small town peacefulness would suddenly fade to dread and panic.
It was late Tuesday evening. Most people were probably just beginning to finally relax after a long weary day. Mom and dad were home from work, dinner had just been eaten, and the entire family was gathering in the living room to watch TV. But all of a sudden, everyone's cell phone simultaneously received an emergency broadcast message. We get these all the time. It's usually to warn about a missing senior citizen, an Amber Alert or a coming thunderstorm, but this one was different. It read:
“EMERGENCY ALERT. Civil Emergency in this area until 11:28PM. Prepare for action."
Ok… what's that supposed to mean? The people living in Salem had no clue. Was an ICBM streaming over from North Korea? An outbreak of Ebola? Mass power failure? Did the zombie apocalypse finally begin? No one knew, so they did what a lot of people would do in that position. They panicked. Families took inventory of what they had on hand. They suddenly realized that their emergency preparation was a massive fail. Dad jumped in the car and sped off to the supermarket, only to find dozens of others doing the same exact thing. Within a matter of just a couple hours, supermarket shelves had been completely stripped of bottled water and other staples.
Shopping carts were literally left tumbled over on their sides, probably from the chaos as people weaved in and out of the aisles looking for supplies. Grocery store employees brought out a pallet of sparkling water to the front of the store and told people to try and hold on until a resupply got there - hopefully - in the morning. Men and women could be seen walking down sidewalks lugging around supplies.
It took just a couple hours for panic to grip this small and peaceful community. Imagine this happening for real in a larger city.
Thirty minutes after the initial alert went out, the city of Salem corrected their emergency alert message. Apparently a glitch had caused a generic alert to be sent out instead of the more in depth one they had planned on. It was only a minor issue with an algae bloom in the cities water supply, but many people never saw the corrected message as they hurried to prepare for disaster.
This story ended up with a happy ending, but the next might not. It took just a couple hours for panic to grip this small and peaceful community. Imagine this happening for real in a larger city. Always have - AT MINIMUM - three days supply of food and water for each member of your family stored in your home. Prepare now. You might not get another chance.