Downey gas leak prompts evacuations, emergency alerts to mobile devices countywide

DOWNEY, Calif. (KABC) -- A gas leak in Downey on Thursday prompted evacuations and an emergency notification that was unintentionally sent to smartphones and mobile devices far beyond the immediate area.

A damaged gas line was reported at 10:30 a.m. in the 7800 block of Stewart & Gray Road, and was apparently caused by a third-party contractor that was working in the area, according to the Southern California Gas Company. All residents within a 300 foot radius were evacuated as a precaution.

There were no immediate reports of damage or an explosion, the Downey Fire Department said.

The emergency alert, which was sent to cellphones shortly after 12:30 p.m., included only the location of the scene and a warning to avoid the area.

Much like an Amber Alert, the message about the gas leak caused cellphones throughout the region to vibrate and beep -- and led to a flood of calls to authorities.

City of Downey officials later apologized, saying "The notification was only intended for near-by residents in the area, not the entire County."

"The city of Downey was testing a new emergency notification system that sent alerts that was intended to notify just the residents of Downey and not intended to notify the entire county," said fire department Capt. Ivan Orloff.

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Video from AIR7 HD showed firefighters and utility crews working to repair the ruptured line, while a stream of water from a firehose prevented any possible flames from igniting.

By around 3:30 p.m., the Downey Fire Department reported the gas company was estimating about four hours to repair the 6-inch line.

The Gas Company reminded residents and business owners to call 811 before digging in a garden or at a construction site. "Calling 811 will avoid possible injury or damage to hidden utility lines," the utility said.
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