Another House committee announced today that it plans to hold a hearing to review the false ballistic missile alert that was sent in Hawaii this past weekend (TR Daily, Jan. 16). The House Homeland Security Committee’s emergency preparedness, response, and communications subcommittee plans to hold a Feb. 6 hearing on “Ensuring Effective and Reliable Alerts and Warnings.” The hearing is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. in room 210 of the House Capitol Visitors Center. “Subcommittee members and witnesses will explore what went wrong before Hawaii’s false ballistic missile alarm and how to prevent similar occurrences in the future. The hearing will also examine proposed enhancements to Wireless Emergency Alerts, which have been useful after emergencies such as the terror attack in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood in 2016,” according to a news release.
Witnesses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FCC, the city of New York, and industry groups are expected to testify. “Communications technology can be enormously effective in sounding the alarm during imminent danger, but only if people trust the system. What happened in Hawaii undermines confidence in our nation’s emergency alerts and warnings, and we need to make necessary changes immediately,” said Rep. Dan Donovan (R., N.Y.), the subcommittee’s chairman. “I’m looking forward to hearing from the witnesses on February 6th, and my goal is to come away with clear steps forward to address this problem.”
Mr. Donovan today wrote FEMA Administrator Brock Long asking him questions about the false Hawaii alert.
“Enhancements to the system will be meaningless if basic awareness of how to use the system is not met. As you look into the circumstances surrounding the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s (HI-EMA) issuance of the erroneous alert, I would appreciate a response to the following questions by January 31st,” Mr. Donovan said.
Among the details he asked for are what training FEMA provides to alert originators, why it took nearly 40 minutes to transmit an alert announcing that the first wireless emergency alert (WEA) was sent in error, why officials originally used social media to correct the alert sent via the Emergency Alert System (EAS), what safeguards are usually employed to ensure such false alerts are not sent, and whether any other states have sent false alerts.
Yesterday, leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced that the communications and technology subcommittee plans to hold a hearing “in the coming weeks” on public safety issues, including the false Hawaii alert (TR Daily, Jan. 16). —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org