TRENTON — A coding error that sent a false nuclear alert to some South Jersey TV viewers made many realize they have no idea where to go or what to do in the event of an actual emergency.

The "nuclear power plant warning" seen by viewers in Cumberland and Salem counties around 8:55 p.m. Monday was intended "for a small group of emergency management personnel who were participating in the exercise," according to a statement from the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. "The coding error has since been identified and corrected."

The Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants are located in Salem County. The state's third nuclear power plant, Oyster Creek, is located in Ocean County.

The OEM said that once the alert went out, they quickly sent out an automated emergency call to resident, notified media outlets and posted information on the social media accounts of the OEM, State Police and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

"In the event of an actual emergency, residents would receive additional alerts, which would provide instructions such as evacuation routes and reception centers. Alert messaging would also be broadcast on State Police and state and local emergency management social media accounts," the OEM said.

Spokeswoman Laura Connolly said all cell phones in the area, even those with out-of-state area codes, would have received an alert.

Connolly said based on the comments to the OEM's Facebook page the incident has also been an educational  moment for many people

"There were so many comments about, 'Wow, I didn't realize how unprepared I was. I didn't realize I didn't have a go kit or an emergency bag. I really realized I don't know what my evacuation route is.' The time to prepare is now, not when there's  something coming over your TV," Connolly said. "Hurricane season starts June 1."

Connolly said those with emergency kits realized that they need to update them. "It's the perfect time to take stock of what you have and update your kit. Kids get older, make sure medications are up to date."

She said the OEM website has information about preparedness for residents near the  nuclear plants.

People should also register anyone with special needs to make a disaster plan with their local emergency management officials via the state Register Ready site.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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