Residents of Hawaii will be glad the emergency ballistic missile threat on January 13 was “fake news,” but the missile scare raises some important questions. The emergency alert notice sent to mobile phones in Hawaii sent the island into pandemonium with residents seeking shelter because of the imminent threat. The alert notice was sent to thousands of mobile phone users who immediately scrambled for safety only to be informed 38 minutes later that it was an error.
The Hawaii incident shows the lack of readiness of both the citizens and the government in the wake of an actual nuclear strike. A report from the Daily Star UK indicates that the average time between warning and impact could be a minimum of 20 minutes, but is 20 minutes enough time to get to safety? Another disturbing issue is the fact that it took so much time, 38 minutes to be precise to dispel the false alert.
A report on Wired questioned the response of the federal government during the alert. The report also indicates that not all local governments are part of the voluntary IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert & Warning System); this implies that not all local governments will be notified early enough in case of a real threat. Another issue of concern is the fact that not all emergency management staff is properly and regularly trained but they are called upon when a threat is imminent.
Another interesting fact is that the DoD uses a different version of the emergency response system which prevents false alarms. All these highlights the fact that the emergency alert system in local governments needs to be perfect. Interestingly, the span of the notification system is still unclear; apart from mobile phone notifications, messages were seen on TV screens to warn citizens in Hawaii.
Many people didn’t know what to do or where to go; some searched the internet for safety tips according to Business Insider. This shows that the government needs to do more to sensitize citizens on what they should do in case of an imminent nuclear attack. After the incident, LifeHacker posted an article on how to survive a nuclear attack.
Fox News reported that the head of the Emergency Management Agency, Vern Miyagi said that an employee mistakenly pushed the button that led to the panic in Hawaii. Miyagi, a retired major general in the United States army informed Fox that the employee will be “counseled and drilled” to prevent future occurrence. Miyagi also assured that the notification process will be reviewed to prevent any errors by requiring two employees instead of one to verify and post alerts. However, a recent tweet by ABC News says that the employee responsible for the false alarm has been removed from the controls.