Think About It: Anger Alert - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News Now, Local Programming

January 22, 2018

Think About It: Anger Alert

The list of absurdities, anecdotes, questions, and uncertainties related to the false missile alert warning of January 13th is seemingly endless. Add to that the disclaimer from state and city officials that there were no apparent injuries, well, at least visible ones because what are a few emotional scars among friends, and this un-comedy of errors has gone on for 10-days now and won't be settled very soon.

The wife of one guy I was with at 8:07 Saturday morning got a text from his wife at home, 20-miles away, and she said, "I love you all; see you in heaven". His two daughters, one the mainland, called him in tears. So while no one apparently died due to the bad button push, the angst caused by the January 13 false alert had repercussions that go far beyond the actual event itself. Stories of stores sending people away, drivers weaving dangerously while traveling well over the speed limit in a quest to get home or somewhere supposedly safe, a Sony Open golfer putting his kids in a hotel bathtub with mattresses on top for protection, people going into bunkers and manholes- well, you surely know the stories by now.

And while there sure was a button to tell us the sky was falling, no one, ever, in any official capacity sat there over the many years these simplistic systems have been in place and said, "…you know, maybe we should put in a button that says: ‘whoops, false alarm, no worries'". After all, they have such backup texts to send out for non-earthquakes, non-tsunamis, and non-earthquakes. But no scripts, no buttons, no clues about no bombs? And 38-minutes before official word got to the public's first and most reliable informers- the TV and radio stations? The 8:07 alert was alarming. But then State EMS system sent us crawls which ran on air at 8:10 and 8:17 that a missile was, indeed, inbound.  Heck, we found out here anecdotally and confirmed things soon thereafter- long before the state officially contacted the TV stations about the false alarm.

The plain, direct, initial alert at 8:07 looked like it might have come from weird Jimmy sitting in his mom's basement and laughing as he hacked into a flawed texting system with this missile threat.  Was this real? How about an official state or national logo or some designation on these text messages and alerts to ensure we know the source is real?! And sorry, social media is simply not the answer for many of us.

OK, let's now go back over 11-years ago to the Big Island Puako earthquake and widespread blackout on a Sunday back in October of 2006. Meetings were soon after held with the media, state, city governments, the military, Hawaiian Electric, Hawaiian Telcom, cell phone providers, et al. Systems did not work then to allow TV and radio stations to update and inform the wary, concerned public. And yet here we are, 11 years later with not much changed. The state called us last Monday to ask for a list of names and phone numbers to call in emergency situations. That's if the phones work. And guess what- we have provided them and others that list year after year. Pushing a wrong button is one thing. Pushing everyone's button with lackadaisical preparation and poor coordination is confounding, irresponsible, and really unfathomable in the year 2018. Think about it…

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