Errant alert messages, such as sent out in Hawaii, unlikely to happen in Utah

Over this past weekend in Hawaii, an alert message went out to residents to prepare for a ballistic missile attack and to seek shelter. An officer in the emergency operations center had apparently accidentally selected a template which sent what was meant to be part of an internal drill out to the public. To make matters worse, it took over a half-hour for a second message to go out informing the public that there was no emergency.

On KVNU’s For the People program on Monday, Utah Department of Public Safety – Public Information Officer Joe Dougherty said such a scary, errant message would probably not go out here.

“That is extremely unlikely to happen in our state,” he said. “The way our alert system is set up is not one that stores a bunch of template messages so that we wouldn’t have a possibility of logging in and accidentally pushing or clicking a button on a website that immediately sends an alert out to our residents.”

He said they do have pre-scripted messages that would be used in an emergency but they are not in a format where someone can accidentally send one out to the public. He noted that each message is accounted for and there’s an audit to trace who sent it.

Dougherty said the most common alert message in Utah that has been sent out with resulting success is the Amber Alert. He said if people want to be able to get real alerts all they need is a fairly modern cell phone or smartphone.

“Currently, Cache County has the Code Red system which is a subscription system. (Local residents can just) go to the Cache County Sheriffs Office, look for emergency alerts or emergency management. There are going to be instructions there about how to make sure you’re part of the Code Red system. But, in a fairly short amount of time, Cache County will have the ability to send alerts without causing or making people sign-up.”

Dougherty said they are really excited about that because these alert messages will be able to be disseminated quickly.

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