Are we ready for a serious emergency in the Garden State?
The Hawaii emergency management worker who mistakenly sent out a mobile alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile a few weeks ago, causing widespread panic and hysteria, is not cooperating with authorities.
Meanwhile, New Jersey emergency management officials are trying to assure members of the public that the chances of such a botched scenario playing out here are extremely remote.
“We maintain a multi-layer emergency communication public messaging system to make sure we can reach out to people statewide if there is an emergency,” said State Police Capt. Mario Sinatra, the executive officer of the state Office of Emergency Management.
He said OEM can get the word out about an emergency situation via radio, television, cellphones and electronic road signs.
He said emergency alerts will be sent to people’s cell phones in the form of text messages and emails.
“Every mobile device has what is called the wire emergency alert in it. It’s sometimes referred to as WEA.”
He said when you get a notification on your cell phone, you’ll know something serious is going on.
“That wireless emergency alert will have a very strong high tone, and it’s a different tone that you’ll hear.”
Sinatra said OEM follows strict protocols.
“We can go ahead and put out alerts, but it has to be an imminent threat to either life or safety [like] a hurricane, a flood.”
He said local OEMs have the ability to activate different systems for subscribers and they may also send an emergency notification to telephone numbers in their jurisdiction.
So what are the chances of a false alert being issued in New Jersey?
Sinatra acknowledged no system is 100 percent perfect.
“We train on these things regularly. We test our systems, we test our people, we make sure emergency notification procedures are up to date, people know what they’re doing.”
He said if an erroneous message was ever sent out, “we would obviously be able to try to cancel that extremely quickly."
For more information about the state’s emergency network, you can visit ready.nj.gov.
He suggests every New Jersey resident take steps to be prepared for whatever type of emergency may unfold.
“Always be ready to go, make sure you have an emergency kit, make sure you stay informed, make sure you have a family communications plan," he said. "We just want the public to be safe.”