What is Reverse 911? Wakefield residents get call from police asking them to stay indoors

Massachusetts police issued an urgent shelter-in-place warning for residents in two towns near Boston, Wakefield and Reading, at 1.30 am on Saturday morning, July 3

                            What is Reverse 911? Wakefield residents get call from police asking them to stay indoors
The Massachusetts State Police updated on their Twitter that they are trying to bring the standoff to a peaceful end (Twitter/ @MassStatePolice)

WAKEFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS: Police are reportedly continuing negotiations with a group of heavily armed men who refused to comply with the police on the morning of Saturday, July 3. The busy Interstate 95 has been shut down because of the standoff. Authorities also issued shelter-in-place orders for parts of Wakefield and Reading to keep citizens safe.

State Police Colonel Christopher Mason said the men have identified themselves as being part of a group known as 'Rise of the Moors'. The group of 8 to 10 men were reportedly in two cars and were stopped in the breakdown lane on I-95 in Wakefield with their hazard lights on around 1.30 am when police asked them for identification. Police said the responding trooper saw that they were wearing "tactical or military-style" uniforms, including tactical vests and body cameras. Some of them had long rifles, others pistols or some combination of both. 


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As per the latest reports, they refused to comply with orders to drop their weapons and ran into the woodland by the side of the road. Interstate 95 was then closed down as officers from both the Massachusetts State Police and Wakefield Police Department searched for the suspects. Eventually, two of them were arrested, but the others remain at large.

And although the police have said that they are trying to de-escalate the situation and resolve it in a peaceful manner, it has created some chaos on social media as many residents received a reverse 911 alert. "We continue to engage the suspects in conversation in an effort to de-escalate the situation on 95 and bring it to a peaceful end," the police tweeted. 


Massachusetts police issued an urgent shelter-in-place warning for residents in two towns near Boston, Wakefield and Reading at 1.30 am on Saturday morning, after eight heavily armed men fled into woodland during a traffic stop. They also advised locking their doors as the men "are refusing to put down their weapons," police said.

Many took to social media to update, "Wakefield update via presser: -Ongoing since 1:30am when a Trooper saw 8-10 men in the BDL on I95 armed. -Some fled into woods. -2 in custody, 1 of which was armed. -I95 is still shutdown. -Reverse 911 call went out to residents that should shelter in place. #boston #news"


Another user wrote, "Reverse 911 out to shelter in place for areas of concern until further notice. Farmers Market canceled. Follow @MassStatePolice for updates."


What is Reverse 911?

Reverse 911 is a public alert system that is often used by safety organizations to alert individuals and businesses to the risk of danger. This is often done by sending a recorded voice message to landline telephones and registered cellphones within a specific geographical area. 

The technology, which uses a database of telephone numbers and associated addresses tied to geographic information systems (GIS), was developed by Sigma Micro Corporation, later known as Sigma Communications, in 1993. As per their site, which is now archived, "REVERSE 911® is a computer program, written for the Windows 95 platform, that allows a law enforcement agency to quickly communicate a message through their phone lines to residents in a specific geographic area."

The technology has been used several times in emergency situations such as the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Seaside and Astoria, Oregon, when residents were notified by Reverse 911 and sirens to evacuate low-lying areas. Another time, during the manhunt for the suspects involved in the Boston Marathon bombing, Reverse 911 was used to alert residents of Watertown, Massachusetts, to remain in their homes. 

"Two suspects have been arrested by members of @NEMLEC on North Ave, Wakefield. MSP has taken custody of and transported them to one of our barracks. The situation is ongoing w/remaining members of the group. We continue to work to resolve the situation peacefully," state police had earlier said on Twitter.