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Congressman Dan Donovan

Representing the 11th District of New York

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Donovan to Chair Hearing on Emergency Alert Systems

January 17, 2018
Press Release
Subcommittee will examine causes of and solutions to Hawaii false alert; Government and industry experts to discuss current state of alert systems, how to avoid future mistakes

Washington, DC – January 17, 2018….Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications (EPRC), will hold a hearing on February 6, 2018 entitled “Ensuring Effective and Reliable Alerts and Warnings.” The EPRC subcommittee will listen to and question witnesses from FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission, the City of New York, and industry associations about the current state of emergency alerts and warnings.

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.

Chairman Donovan said, “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. 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.”

The hearing will be held on February 6, 2018 at 10:00 AM at the House Capitol Visitors Center (HVC) Room 210.

This week, Donovan also sent a list of questions to FEMA Administrator Brock Long inquiring about the Hawaii incident.

Congressman Donovan wrote, in part:

“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.

  • What training does FEMA provide to alert originators to ensure proper understanding and use of the system? 
  • Why did it take nearly 40 minutes for HI-EMA to send another alert indicating the alert sent at 8:05 am HST was a false alarm?
  • According to a timeline released by HI-EMA, officials were able to confirm within five minutes of the alert’s issuance that it was false.  Yet, HI-EMA officials waited an additional 10 minutes before using social media to announce the message was false.  What caused this delay and why did HI-EMA choose to use social media, rather than the same alerting mechanisms that sent the original alert to announce the false alarm?
  • Have other states had issues with false alerts? If so, how many have been reported? Please provide a list of any such reported issues with your response.”

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