A Week of False Ballistic Missile Alerts: From Japan to Hawaii

Georgia Reed
January 18, 2018

The Honolulu Civil Beat noted in a story on Sunday that the employee who made the choice from the almost unintelligible list has been temporarily reassigned within the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), and his status at the agency will be decided after a review.

Big Island police spokesman Alan Richmond says the 911 line exploded with too many calls to count after state emergency management officials sent the alert by mistake Saturday.

The Federal Communications Commission, Rapoza said, doesn't allow them to test the wireless emergency alert system that handles cell phone alerts. Officials emphasize the state's public should heed any alerts issued from the professionals here.

The Times report noted that North Korea had fired numerous missiles into the waters around Japan in recent months, including some over the country.

They said in a letter to the committee Tuesday that it's understandable for states to have primary jurisdiction over warnings for floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

The agency posted a note on Twitter about the false alarm about 10 minutes after the initial alert.

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On Saturday, at 8:07 a.m., more than a million mobile phones in Hawaii received an emergency notification, warning citizens about an imminent missile attack. "THIS IS NOT A DRILL", the initial emergency alert read.

NHK issued a correction within 10 minutes saying the alert was a mistake.

One of the issues that the FCC plans to take up at its January open meeting are reforms to the WEA program, in part to encourage more individuals to sign up to receive alerts. Future alerts will require two employees to sign off, and there is now a "False Alarm" option on list of tests and alerts.

She also said the Department of Homeland Security is examining how the US government can quickly verify the accuracy of alerts with agencies such as the Department of Defense.

That being said, institutions of higher education, K-12 schools and districts and hospitals must learn from these errors so that when a crisis happens to their campus, the right messages will be delivered to the right people quickly and effectively.

Ballard added that dispatchers planned to get back to all of the callers to make sure no actual emergencies were occurring.

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