January 16, 2018

Hirono Secures Commitment from DHS Secretary to Investigate False Emergency Threat Alert, Provide Clear Instructions on Disaster Alerts & Readiness

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following Saturday’s false emergency threat alert, Senator Mazie K. Hirono secured a commitment from Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to improve communication between the federal government and states on emergency alerts, including verification of the information contained in alerts.

In response to Senator Hirono’s inquiry, Secretary Nielsen clarified that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has contacted the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) to provide assistance in HI-EMA’s investigation, and clarified that states do not need permission from FEMA to cancel false alerts.

“Saturday’s false emergency alert about a ballistic missile threat to Hawaii induced fear and panic throughout the islands. The threat was false, but the panic was real. People are upset and demanding answers, and so am I,” Senator Hirono said. “Today, I secured a commitment from Secretary Nielsen to strengthen federal-state cooperation on emergency alerts, assess potential human and systemic failures, and improve overall readiness in Hawaii and across our country. I will continue to pursue all avenues of investigation to learn what happened on Saturday and keep it from happening again.”

Senator Hirono questioned Secretary Nielsen as part of her Senate Judiciary Committee oversight role. Today’s hearing follows Senator Hirono’s conversations immediately following the alert with Hawaii Governor David Ige and Admiral Harry Harris.