It seemed routine at first.
An “emergency alert” banner flashed across TV screens in Southern California — a test run monthly across the airwaves.
But then suddenly a booming voice followed with an alarming message: “Realize this — that in the last days, extremely violent times will come!”
But fear not!
It was a test.
It. Was. Only. A. Test.
Despite recent predictions of an imminent apocalypse, with some fearing that the end may be nigh on or about Sept. 23, the ominous warning broadcast to some Southern California cable customers Thursday was simply an emergency broadcast system test gone very comically awry, according to the Orange County Register.
Cox Communications spokesman Todd Smith told The Washington Post on Friday that the message, which was apparently broadcast to Cox Communications and Spectrum customers in Orange County, Calif., was part of a regular test of the Emergency Alert System via FM radio station, KWVE. Smith said Cox Communications partners with KWVE for these broadcasts; the radio station sends them out and they are picked up by the cable company.
Smith said in a statement that during each test, an emergency tone is used to start and stop the message, but “the end tone was not properly transmitted and the radio signal continued beyond the standard test for a total of approximately two minutes.”
The test was not properly shut off, Smith said, so a voice from a radio program bled into the broadcast.
“They’ve tested hundreds if not thousands of messages with us and most work perfectly,” he said in the statement. “This is exactly what tests are for: to identify any potential hitches to ensure clear communications during an actual emergency.”
One viewer said it startled her, but only because “ the volume increased exponentially.”
“I wasn’t alarmed in the sense of thinking something was wrong, ’cause I assumed it was some sort of hack,” Spectrum customer Erin Mireles told the Orange County Register. “My channel changed back to Bravo after a couple minutes.”
Stacy Laflamme said she heard it while watching HGTV.
“It almost sounded like Hitler talking,” Laflamme, who uses Cox Communications, told the newspaper. “It sounded like a radio broadcast coming through the television.”
Spectrum spokesman Dennis Johnson told The Post that the cable company was also able to confirm that it was “fed an incorrect audio file” during the emergency test. Though a spokesman for KWVE said he could not confirm that the alert originated from the radio station — but that he would look into it.
So — if that booming voice was not spreading a doomsday prophecy, then what was it?
The voice came from a program featuring Chuck Swindoll, an evangelical pastor whose show is aired on thousands of stations across the globe. Swindoll was speaking about the last days, quoting from a scripture in the Bible: 2 Timothy 3:1.
“You should know this, Timothy,” it states, “that in the last days, there will be very difficult times.”
This story has been updated.