SPOKANE, Wash. -- There have been two false missile emergency alerts sent out in less than a week.
First, there was an alert sent to more than a million people in Hawaii. A worker accidentally sent it out. On Tuesday, there was a similar alert sent to people in Japan saying a missile was heading straight for the country. This raises a question what exactly are the protocols to send out these types of alerts?
A Wireless Emergency Alert, or WEA, is different from Alert Spokane because those alerts go to anyone with a cell phone and it is not something you sign up for. This is the type of alert accidentally launched in Hawaii. Greater Spokane Emergency Management officials said it has multiple safe guards to prevent a similar accident from happening.
"In order to launch a WEA alert, you have to have gone through an approval process through the federal government," Deputy Director of Emergency Management Chandra Fox said.
The Greater Spokane Emergency Management office has three individuals authorized to launch a Wireless Emergency Alert.
"It's another safe guard. It's not an ability you want everyone to have," Fox explained.
Simone Ramel-McKay is one of the three authorized to launch a WEA alert. It is not a simple click of a button. It is a click of several buttons.
Ramel-McKay showed KREM 2 what the process looks with a hypothetical alert and it starts with answering specific details about the emergency.
"Then they want to know how urgent is it? Immediate or is it expected? We'll say immediate. Then, certainty. It’s observed. We know this is already going to be a problem. Then severity, is it really severe or extreme, I'll say severe," Ramel-McKay explained.
Then, she selects the type of response for this alert, like evacuating or heading to a shelter. Finally, she composes an alert message. After all that, it is still not a simple click and the WEA alert is sent out.
"Very difficult because they're checking with me and then I'm still having to put my code and then it will launch," she said.
Each step in this process is a safe guard the codeRED system has in place to prevent accidentally launching an alert.
"There's a lot of products on the market. I don't know what Hawaii had--I'm thinking they may want to change at this point. Never say never, but I think it would be highly unlikely for it to happen here," Fox said.
Greater Spokane Management adds that the decision to issue a WEA alert comes after discussions with the incident commander of that emergency.
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