Wisconsin's emergency protocols guard against false alerts

MADISON (WKOW) - Officials say Wisconsin's system of checks and balances in its emergency notification system makes it less likely a repeat of Hawaii's erroneous alert of an incoming ballistic missile would happen here.

Hawaii's mistake Saturday terrified residents and visitors, including honeymooners Sam and Angie Novak of Stevens Point.  "We both kind of just quietly freaked out, and there were some people who were crying,"  Angie Novak says.

Hawaii officials say a single employee activated the alert mistakenly.  That state's emergency alert protocol is being revamped.

In Wisconsin, any similar alert decision would involve more scrutiny.

"We have a duty officer who types in the message, it goes through a senior duty officer, so we have two people who see it before it goes out,"  Wisconsin Emergency Management Spokesperson Lori Getter says. 

In Hawaii, the erroneous bulletin was not corrected for thirty-eight minutes.

"We can cancel a message fairly quickly,"  Getter says.

Getter says unlike Hawaii's current protocol, emergency officers here could not select the nuclear-alert from a computer menu.  

"We don't use templates,"  she says.  "We type in the message."Getter says officers make computer selections that are more functional.

"You determine, Do you want to send this to cell phone users?  Do you want to send this to broadcasters?  To weather radios?  To all?"  Getter says.

Wisconsin emergency officials says there's likely lessons for all states from what happened in Hawaii.  Officials emphasize the state's public should heed any alerts issued from the professionals here. 

 "It is something that our duty officers practice on,"  Getter says.

Officials say a statewide, emergency alert is rare, with the last, such alert event connected to blizzard, travel conditions. 

Getter says FEMA or the U.S. Department of Defense would notify the state of any need to alert residents over a nuclear missile threat.

Duty officers have equipment for remote, alert initiation, and Getter says even a nuclear warning could be issued from an officer's home. 

For more on this story: http://www.wkow.com/story/37279493/2018/01/16/wisconsins-emergency-protocols-guard-against-false-alerts

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