Maine Emergency Officials Examine Hawaii False Missile Alert

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Human error is being blamed for a false ballistic missile alert issued in Hawaii over the weekend.

It's prompting state agencies nationwide to reassess their procedures when it comes to emergency alerts.

We spoke with Maine Emergency Management Agency officials about the alert process.

"What would you have done?"

A false ballistic missile alert was sent out to cell phones across Hawaii Saturday.

For 38 minutes, residents prepared for an impending nuclear attack, only to find out there was no threat at all.

"What we use is a system called I-PAWS. And then we have the technology here at MEMA to send out that messaging."

IPAWS stands for Integrated Public Alert Warning System.

The technology is used by Emergency Management Agencies nationwide.

"They're not sent unless there's truly an emergency."

But in this case, there was no emergency.

"Certainly has a lot of states looking at their internal procedures to make sure that something like this wouldn't happen in their state."

Susan Faloon is the public information officer of Maine Emergency Management Agency.

"Part of it is your internal process and following those protocols as well, and we would certainly do that. We wouldn't have one person making a decision and then going ahead and sending it out."

She says an alert cannot be sent without first consulting the agency's director and the Governor's office.

"That message is sent to FEMA and as long as it meets all of the credentialing criteria, then it's approved and it's sent out."

There are three people at MEMA who have the authority to send emergency alerts, a responsibility Faloon says they don't take lightly.

"We actually sat down and said okay, how can we improve the process here internally so that things go smoothly?"

No system is perfect and there's always the potential for human error, but being prepared is crucial to avoid situations like the one in Hawaii.

"Kind of the critical thing, you know if we were to have something like a nuclear missile attack, is that people know how they're going to get their alerts and warnings, they know what they need, they know what to do and they have a plan in place."

FEMA has an app where you can get targeted preparedness information in your area along with flood warnings and emergency alerts.

It's available for Apple, Android, and Blackberry Mobile devices.

For more information, go to fema.gov/mobile-app.