BUTLER COUNTY (KDKA) — A Facebook post about a “fake” tornado warning had emergency officials in Butler County very upset today.
Their fear was that people wouldn’t realize it was fake, and would panic.
Butler county emergency services officials said the person behind this Facebook post is a 17-year-old young man who is not associated with the county in any way, shape or form. The post was immediately removed as soon as he saw the problems it was causing.
Steven Bicehouse, the Director of Emergency Servies in Butler County, said this type of fake message could induce a lot of unnecessary panic in the community.
“It was a drill they very similarly did from NWS in Chicago trying to find out how far social media page reached out into the community in disaster situation,” Bicehouse said. “When we do drills we follow a specific set of rules. We make sure people are very aware that this is a drill a practice. We don’t release stuff out through media when we do a drill.”
The young man’s page titled “Butler County, PA 911 Notifications” may look official but Bicehouse says it’s not.
“This is a private individual that has his own webpage he likes to take stuff that we have on our scanner and post out to people for information purposes.”
Bicehouse also says the county operates its own Facebook page called Butler County PA Emergency Services.
You can tell a page like this is official if it has the official county seal and no one is allowed to use this seal without permission from the county.
The posts the county makes come directly from the National Weather Service.
Bicehouse’s office had been getting a number of inquiries about the fake message.
Several hours afterward, the Butler County PA 911 notifications page took it down and posted:
“Sorry for all these past few posts. We are just trying to do the county good by checking our reach level and everyone cooperate as a team but apparently it can’t be done in the nature we found suitable.”
Emergency services officials say the teenager behind this page is legally allowed to post whatever he wants to due to freedom of speech and the county has no legal authority to do anything.
However if a fake message like this would induce a lot of panic, officials say they would consider getting a prosecutor involved.