FCC Chair on Hawai‘i False Alert: Safeguards, Controls Not in PlaceJanuary 14, 2018, 2:03 PM HST (Updated January 15, 2018, 10:43 AM)
Yesterday, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2018, a false alert of an imminent missile attack was broadcast to the homes and cellphones of the residents of Hawai‘i using the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts.
These public/private partnerships allow federal, state, and local officials (in this case, Hawai‘i state authorities) to send alerts regarding public safety emergencies.
U.S. Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai issued the following statement:
“The false emergency alert sent yesterday in Hawai‘i was absolutely unacceptable. It caused a wave of panic across the state—worsened by the 38-minute delay before a correction alert was issued. Moreover, false alerts undermine public confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during real emergencies.
“The FCC’s investigation into this incident is well underway. We have been in close contact with federal and state officials, gathering the facts about how this false alert was issued. Based on the information we have collected so far, it appears that the government of Hawai‘i did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the transmission of a false alert.
“Moving forward, we will focus on what steps need to be taken to prevent a similar incident from happening again. Federal, state and local officials throughout the country need to work together to identify any vulnerabilities to false alerts and do what’s necessary to fix them. We also must ensure that corrections are issued immediately in the event that a false alert does go out.”
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