Emergency management leaders reassure public after recent false alarms

Recent false alarms affected people in Hawaii, Japan

ROANOKE, Va. – In the wake of two recent false alarms about incoming ballistic missiles in Japan and Hawaii, emergency officials across the country are working to reassure people that the notification systems are effective.

Roanoke Emergency Management officials said those recent false alarms are creating false fears.

"Once a message is sent out in error, it causes people in the community to not take action in the future and we absolutely don't want that," Roanoke Battalion Chief of Emergency Management Marci Stone said.

Stone said they have protocols in place to prevent a mistake like that from happening.

"There are several steps. There's only one person with the authorization," Stone said. "Our system is not a one button-push system. We actually have to go through a process and there's several approvals along the way."

One of those approvals goes through E-911 system coordinator John Powers, who demonstrated exactly how the city's reverse 911 system works.

"If I go in and pick an area of the city that I’m interested in doing notification in, then I actually draw a box around the areas that I want to send the notifications out to and then, once I’ve done that, the next step is I’ll go in and actually make up my message that I want to send," Powers said.

The city can only use the system for emergencies affecting a specific area.

"If there's a child that's been missing and we want people in the neighborhood to be aware that we're looking for this child," Powers said.

Powers said he's confident that the right protocols are in place to keep a mistake from happening and to keep families safe.

"There’d be so many steps, other people looking at it, the chances of something like that happening are slim," Powers said.