(BIVN) – Confirmation of an inbound missile attack is the responsibility of the federal government, and the subsequent emergency notification of the public should be, too, says Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
“If the federal government knows that a missile is coming, it is worth asking if they should be the ones to tell everyone,” Sen. Schatz proffered during his opening statement during a hearing held before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, of which Schatz is a member.
The hearing examined the policy concerns surrounding the use and effectiveness of Emergency Alert Systems including Wireless Emergency Alerts, as well as recent system failures, including but not limited to the mistaken missile alert in Hawaii – caused by human error – that panicked the state on January 13.
“For many people in Hawaii, one of the most harrowing hours of their lives started just a few minutes after 8 a.m. on January 13th, 2018,” Schatz said. “Cell phones across the state lit up with a warning that a ballistic missile attack was imminent.”
“For the next 38 minutes, both residents and visitors panicked. People were terrified as they scrambled to get in touch with loved ones. I know, because I was home in Honolulu that morning. I started to get dozens of texts with screenshots of the push alert asking me, what was happening? Meanwhile, within a minute or two, officials at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency had spoken to the Pacific Command and confirmed that there was no missile attack. Only nobody told the rest of us.”
“If you were told a ballistic missile was inbound – and your loved ones were spread out – what in the world would go through your mind?” pondered Sen. Bill Nelson, the Ranking Democrat from Florida. “Its exactly what went through the mind of Senator Schatz. Regrettably, he knows the answer to that question. And he knows its very real, and very personal. He was there. He received the alert.”
“And it’s because of that personal connection to this situation – and the leadership that he has shown in the aftermath – that I’m going to be here simply to support him in this.”
Sen. Schatz is drawing up a proposal to take the missile alert notification process out of the hands of local officials.
“It is increasingly clear to me that if we get all 50 states and all the territories and 3,007 counties across the country participating in this program, the likelihood of another mistaken missile alert as a result of human or bureaucratic error is not zero,” Schatz reasoned. “States are laboratories of democracy. They should not be the laboratories for missile alerts, which is why this is an important question for Congress to consider.”
“We have lively debates about federalism, about the role of local versus federal government,” Schatz continued. “Confirmation and notification of something like a missile attack should reside with the agency that knows first, and knows for sure. In other words, the people who know should be the people who tell us. That is why I’m introducing legislation with Senators Harris, Gardner and others to make it clear that the authority to send missile alerts should rest with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. These agencies have to work with the state and local emergency management agencies when they get the word out so that the public is safe and informed.”
The same Senate committee intends to hold a future field hearing in Hawaii to focus specifically on the missile system alert failure that occurred Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, at the request of Sen. Schatz.
Big Island Video News will have more from this hearing at this tag: Jan 25, 2018 Senate Hearing