Hey, Hawaii: The Telecom Industry Lobbied Against Testing for Emergency Alert System

Everyone in Hawaii received a ballistic missile threat today under a system that currently has no good testing protocols.

By Jason Koebler | MOTHERBOARD

“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” read an emergency push alert sent to the cell phones of people in Hawaii Saturday. It wasn’t a drill, but it was a mistake.

Moments after the alert was issued, the Hawaii Emergency Management System tweeted that there was “NO missile thread to Hawaii.” In the coming hours and days, we will surely learn more about how such a horrifying mistake could have occurred.

In any case, the system used to send the message has been the subject of sharp criticism and ongoing controversy as public safety officials beg telecom companies to give them the capability of doing live, opt-in tests of the system without scaring the shit out of everyone.

The push alert Hawaiians received are known as “Wireless Emergency Alerts.” They were deployed in 2012 by the Federal Communications Commission, FEMA, and the telecom industry. They are sent directly by federal or local agencies to phones using technology developed specifically for the system—they are not text messages. There are three types of WEAs: alerts issued by he president; alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life; and Amber alerts for missing children.

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