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Miami Valley unlikely to experience the kind of false alarm that rattled Hawaii

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 6:16 PM
By: Jim Otte

Last weekend’s false alarm in Hawaii that sent people scrambling for cover is a mistake that is unlikely to be repeated in the Miami Valley, according to Jeff Jordan, director, Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management.

Saturday morning, people were alerted by the Hawaii emergency management agency that a missile attack was imminent. 

Text alerts went to people’s cell phones and radio broadcasts were interrupted with the message. It came during a test of the state’s emergency notification system.

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“It sounds like in their system the test message and the actual message were right next to each other. Frankly that is an accident waiting to happen,” Jordan said. 

Hawaii authorities confirmed that once the first message went out in error, it took more than 30 minutes to recall it and replace it with the all clear. 

Jordan said notification systems used locally and statewide in Ohio do not include just one “button” for an emergency. Each message, he said, must be written to fit the emergency to avoid the situation that Hawaii found itself in.

“There are specific protocols in place (in Montgomery County) to prevent that kind of miscommunication,” Jordan said.

A mix of multiple agencies are responsible for notifying the public of emergencies. Alerts of incoming bad weather come directly from the National Weather Service, according to NewsCenter 7 Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs. 

“We actually see it instantly into our weather graphics and that is why it is so great with the new technology that we have to get these watches and warnings immediately,” Vrydaghs said. 

The NWS alerts also go directly to emergency management agencies statewide.

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Other emergency notices include Amber alerts, concerning missing children, which come from local law enforcement. 

The Ohio Department of Transportation uses highway electronic signs to notify the public of slow traffic or emergency response crews blocking expressway lanes. 

Jordan said oftentimes, their best means of distributing emergency information is through the media. The agency uses social media as well, but broadcast radio and TV can reach more people very quickly. 

He advises people that in case of a true emergency to take cover first and then check local media for updates on the situation. 

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