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Facebook page scuttles plans for Butler County fake tornado drill

| Monday, June 29, 2015, 11:39 p.m.

A Facebook page operated by a Butler County teenager caused confusion Monday among emergency officials, the National Weather Service and others when the page's administrator said he would post a fake warning about a tornado as a way to conduct a drill.

AJ Ayers, 17, of Butler retracted the post as a result of complaints to the weather service and Butler County Emergency Services.

Ayers said he had no ill intent and believes the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

“Personally, I felt there was going to be no panic whatsoever,” he said.

Ayers oversees a Facebook page he calls Butler County PA 911 Notifications, which aggregates news accounts and public safety alerts from other sites. A post Monday said the page would post a fake tornado message Wednesday.

“This will be a simulated social media emergency drill. We want to see how well our user reach is, how fast it can be shared and where we failed. We want EVERYONE to share it, as if it was an actual tornado touchdown,” the post read.

The page is sometimes confused with a Facebook page operated by Butler County Emergency Services.

“It has nothing to do with my office,” said Steve Bicehouse, Butler County's emergency services director.

The county's emergency services Facebook page is called Butler County PA Emergency Services.

Ayers “needs to channel his energies a little bit more positively,” Bicehouse said.

Ayers removed the post after someone complained to the National Weather Service and county emergency officials.

The teenager said the decision was voluntary. He claimed he was not pressured by the weather service or county officials.

“I didn't want to cause any more of an uproar,” he said.

Ayers' page has generated more than 14,000 “likes” since its rollout in March 2014. Butler County's emergency services' Facebook page has 1,800 likes.

Tony Raap is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7827 or traap@tribweb.com.

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