ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, testified Thursday (January 25) before a session of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation regarding Amateur Radio’s readiness to respond in an emergency. The session, “This is not a Drill: An Examination of Emergency Alert Systems,” was called in the wake of an incoming missile warning erroneously released in Hawaii earlier this month. Lisenco said Amateur Radio played a role not only in responding to the warning but in disseminating word that the missile alert had been issued by mistake.
Lisenco said the Hawaii Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) activated on UHF and via a VHF inter-island repeater network, and amateur stations monitored the alert and cancellation activity, which came less than 1 day after RACES had completed an Amateur Radio communication exercise at the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC). In his written testimony, Lisenco recounted that the situation after the missile warning in Hawaii was chaotic.
“The phone lines into the State EOC were soon overwhelmed and congested, and the website was overwhelmed with public inquiries,” he said. Lisenco said that in such situations, Amateur Radio volunteers typically are present at state or county EOCs and at the State Warning Point, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. He pointed out that the cancellation of the false warning circulated on various information outlets 13 minutes after the missile warning went out.