Should military be allowed access to state system for attack alerts, retractions?

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U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Colleen Hanabusa are asking the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services to look into giving U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) access to Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s alert system.

Always Investigating was the first to report that HI-EMA’s alert system is one of only a handful in the country that does not allow access to other agencies, so any retraction would have to come from HI-EMA.

After a HI-EMA employee accidentally triggered a false missile alert that sent the entire state into a panic Saturday morning, it took the agency 38 minutes to send a follow-up alert that confirmed it was a false alarm.

Hanabusa says the military would know better than anyone if an attack is imminent, so why not have them issue any type of correction?

“If PACOM says it is or it isn’t, one or the other, that in fact that’s probably the best information that we have, and I think that’s what’s needed in this process,” she explained.

Hanabusa says it would only apply to alerts that involve the military, not natural disasters, and that this oversight will help restore public confidence in the system.

“I think the people of the state would feel a lot more confident if they knew there was a check on a check on a check,” Hanabusa said.

Other checks include the Federal Communications Commission. Hanabusa says investigators will be coming to Hawaii Wednesday, and will be looking into why some cell phones did not get the alert.

“The bottom line is this is the way we’re moving, to notification and alerts, so we have to be sure that it all works appropriately, and I think that’s what they’re coming in to find out,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is calling on the FCC to make its own recommendations while Sen. Mazie Hirono questioned Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, on how to make the system better.

“Do you have the responsibility to convene state emergency managers to make sure that each state has an alert system that functions properly?” Hirono asked.

“We do request a variety of information from state locals on their alert warning systems as part of our threat assessments conducted by FEMA,” Nielsen replied.

On the state level, lawmakers will hold a hearing Friday. Gov. David Ige and HI-EMA administrator Vern Miyagi will be present.

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