MEMA says residents should be confident in state alert system

MEMA uses entirely separate system to conduct tests

SPRINGFIELD / WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Panic in Paradise. An emergency missile alert was mistakenly sent to residents in Hawaii.

22News spoke directly with Kurt Schwartz, the Director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. He said their system is set up differently than Hawaii.

In Hawaii, one person pushed the wrong button. In Massachusetts it takes three people. A dispatcher at MEMA Headquarters in Framingham takes the call and has to inform a duty officer. The duty officer then reports to a senior executive. It’s a check and balance system that can send an alert in minutes.

“We’ve of course been tested in situation like the Boston Marathon bombing where we really saw our first responders operate in really an exemplary way. But mistakes can happen and there can be gaps,” explained State Sen. Eric Lesser of the 1st Hampden/Hampshire District.

Local cities and towns deploy their own alert systems. In Westfield, Emergency Management Director Jim Wiggs told 22News they can send alerts for flooding or tornadoes.

Residents must enroll in the city’s Rapid Notify alerts to get them. The system can target specific areas of town.

“It does ask me for a confirmation before it sends it out. There’s room for error but there is a chance that you can catch yourself, like a fail-safe,” said Wiggs.

In Springfield, you may see old signs on buildings that designate them as nuclear fallout shelters. It even tells you what the capacity is.

But those fallout shelters, like symphony hall, were abolished after the cold war. Springfield briefly thought about reinstating nuclear sirens after the tornado.

“But now with the advance of technology, there are much quicker ways to get a hold of people,” explained Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

MEMA told 22News they have backups to backups if they lose power, and their system is secure from hacking behind the state’s firewall system.