Hawaii’s Testing Error May Help Save Lives

by,

Suzanne Coleman, MD

Based on the information provided in a report by the “Washington Post” last week, the emergency services employee in Hawaii who sent out a false alert about incoming missiles might have actually done the state and its people a big service in the long run.

Clearly the mistake was terrifying, not only to the people of Hawaii, but to everyone in the country, but its occurrence revealed serious flaws in the preparedness of the agency and the state for an actual emergency.

Flaws in the system were many, according to the article:

Emergency alerts are only supposed to go out in coordination with the FCC, FEMA, and the wireless industry. But reportedly one individual was able to bypass this systemic procedure.

The military involved in the region did not seem to be aware that a test was in-progress which reveals a lack of communication and coordination between the emergency services agency and the military.

Reportedly the staff involved in alerting the public knew about the upcoming drill, but the day and night-shift supervisors had not properly communicated the responsibility for running the drill to each other, nor to their respective staff.

The drill alert was too similar to a real alert, causing staff confusion.

There was no contingency plan put in place by the emergency management agency to communicate with the public in unplanned situations like this one. The response by their staff and other governmental figures to the erroneous public alert was grossly inadequate. The people received no updates for an excruciating 38 minutes, though emergency management staff was aware of the error in three minutes. That is unacceptable. Immediate communication should have occurred in order to clarify that there was no actual threat. The use of radio and television would have been simple and effective, but that was not done, according to reports. Posting on their official facebook page would have been an effective option as well.

Since this event occurred, reports note that Hawaii is addressing these issues. If the agency is able to properly correct these exposed weaknesses, it will provide Hawaii with a stronger and more effective system that can properly serve its people, and that is a good outcome. The government will need to follow through and ensure that these issues are truly fixed, and that the new and updated procedures and systems function as needed, in both planned and emergency situations. As a result, this unfortunate event will hopefully make all Hawaiians, and all Americans, safer in the long-run.

 

 

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