FEMA Agrees to Make Vendors Change Emergency Alert Software

FEMA concurred with both recommendations in the DHS inspector general's report but said it expects to complete its work on both on Oct. 31, 2019.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's inspector general has produced a report after examining FEMA's role in a false missile alert in Hawaii on Jan. 13, 2018. The report recommends that FEMA have its vendors make changes in their emergency alert software, and the agency has agreed with that recommendation.

The report, "FEMA's Oversight of the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS)," is dated Nov. 19. Congress asked the inspector general's office to examine FEMA's role in the alert, in which IPAWS was activated. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent a text alert Jan. 13 to most cellphones in the state warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack and advising, "This is not a drill." The alert was broadcast live on TV and radio stations, resulting in "widespread panic throughout Hawaii" for about 38 minutes -- the time it took the state agency to send out an official announcement retracting the false alarm, according to the IG's report.

FEMA maintains IPAWS, but state and local alerting authorities must obtain commercially available emergency alert software, according to the report, which says FEMA does not require that the software perform some functions that are critical to the alerting process, such as the ability to preview or cancel an alert. Instead, FEMA recommends that software vendors include those capabilities as a best practice.

That's one of the recommendations, to require vendors to include critical functions, which FEMA already identified in 2015 and 2018, in their proprietary emergency alerting software. The second recommendation is that FEMA require software vendors to provide training on system functionality and capabilities to alerting authorities. FEMA concurred with both recommendations but said it expects to complete its work on both on Oct. 31, 2019.

The report includes a timeline of the Hawaii alert. It shows that the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency cancelled it seven minutes after the alert was initiated by a night-shift supervisor, but did not send out a second alert clarifying that the original was a false alarm for another 33 minutes. During that time, the state agency tried twice to contact FEMA, succeeding on the second attempt and being given correct procedures for issuing a false alarm message.

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Incident investigation guide

    Need some tips for conducting an incident investigation at work after there’s been an occupational injury or illness, or maybe even a near miss? This guide presents a comprehensive overview of methods of performing incident investigations to lead you through your next steps.

  • Steps to Conduct a JSA

    We've put together a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help you perform a job safety analysis (JSA), which includes a pre-built, JSA checklist and template, steps of a JSA, list of potential job hazards, and an overview of hazard control hierarchy.

  • Levels of a Risk Matrix

    Risk matrices come in many different shapes and sizes. Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively.

  • Free Safety Management Software Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Management Software helps organizations to improve safety by providing a comprehensive toolset of software modules to help businesses identify trouble spots; reduce claims, lost days, OSHA fines; and more.

  • Industry Safe
Bulwark FR Quiz

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - July August 2020

    July August 2020

    Featuring:

    • CONFINED SPACES
      Addressing Confined Spaces and Heat Stress Concerns
    • PROTECTIVE APPAREL
      Why Daily Wear FR Garments Make Sense No Matter the Season
    • HAND PROTECTION
      The Magic of New Technology
    • CHEMICAL SAFETY
      Why Effective Chemical Safety Training is More Important Than Ever
    View This Issue