January 25, 2018 / 11:00 AM / a month ago

U.S. Senate to hold hearing on Hawaii false missile alert

WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate panel is holding a hearing on Thursday on the false ballistic missile alert sent out by authorities in Hawaii this month that stirred panic in the Pacific island state and prompted calls for reforms to prevent future such incidents.

“This was scary,” Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune said in an interview. He said he was shocked that a notification for a purported nuclear attack was coming through a state agency.

He said he believed the hearing could produce suggestions and recommendations “for a more streamlined approach about how people get notified” of that type of emergency. “I was shocked how incoherent the whole process seemed.”

State authorities blamed human error for the false alarm issued in Hawaii on Jan. 13.

The Federal Communications Commission’s bureau chief overseeing public safety will testify at the hearing as will a senior vice president at a wireless trade group and the chief technology officer at the National Association of Broadcasters.

In a speech last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said FCC investigators were reviewing why it took 38 minutes for Hawaii to correct the false alert and how to ensure it did not happen again.

“This incident highlights the need for our alerting system to work properly and for alerts to convey accurate information to the public,” Pai said.

He has said Hawaii apparently did not have adequate safeguards in place and that government officials must work to prevent future incidents.

A U.S. House of Representatives panel also plans a hearing over the alert and the Senate Commerce Committee plans a hearing in Hawaii.

To prevent a repeat of the incident, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency has said it will require two employees to activate the alert system - one to issue the warning and another to confirm it. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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