Cantwell Presses Government, Industry Leaders on Protocols for Disaster Warning Systems

Cantwell’s pressure follows recent false emergency missile alert that caused widespread panic in Hawaii

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) pressed government and industry leaders on establishing protocols within the nation’s emergency alert system to prevent false alarms and ensure safety.

“I guarantee you that with tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding, lahars, you name it, we in Washington state pay a lot of attention to disaster issues,” Cantwell said during a hearing on the Senate Commerce Committee.

Cantwell pointed to the recent incident in Hawaii where a false emergency missile alert was sent out across the state causing widespread panic. The alert was not corrected for more than 40 minutes.

While there are coordinated efforts between local, state and federal agencies for disaster response, there are no federal protocols in place for the emergency alert system.

“We train constantly, constantly on this as a coordinated effort between Homeland Security, our National Guard, our local responders,” said Cantwell.

But when it comes to the emergency alert system, Cantwell noted “we need some protocols as to how [emergency alert system] is used and how to make sure that there are some safe guards there for the public.”

Emergency response and alerts have been a priority for Senator Cantwell and state leaders for some time, but efforts have ramped up after the New Yorker published its “The Big One” article in 2015.

With the help of Senator Cantwell, Washington’s Division of Emergency Management has received numerous grants through the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program to help expedite tsunami preparedness, increase educational outreach efforts, and improve tsunami evacuation routes. For example, one grant through NTHMP helped purchase and install five tsunami sirens in Grays Harbor, Pacific, and Whatcom Counties to fill gaps. Click here for the full list of grants in FY2016 and FY2017.

Senator Cantwell authored tsunami detection and warning legislation that would increase the NTHMP grants as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) tsunami warning system and advance new research related to improving tsunami detection, forecasting, notification, and emergency response. Her legislation was signed into law in April of 2017.

You can watch the full exchange between Cantwell and the hearing panelists HERE.