A false alarm that warned of an imminent missile attack on Hawaii over the weekend understandably and unnecessarily terrified the state’s millions of residents and visitors causing shockwaves to reverberate in Congress as officials seek to answer how this could have happened and how to ensure it never happens again.
While our crisis communication software, BlackBerry AtHoc, was not used by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, it is the only crisis communication software that has successfully undergone FedRAMP authorization and is used by more than 75 percent of the U.S. Government and Fortune 500 companies. These customers (i.e., U.S. Department of Defense, American Red Cross, U.S. Army, and more) use BlackBerry AtHoc to protect their people because of our security expertise and the high-level of training and support we provide.
As witnessed on Saturday, technology is only as good as the user that controls it. Which is why we encourage elected and appointed officials take the following into consideration as they begin to debate what changes are necessary to ensure the emergency notification systems meant to keep Americans safe perform without error in the future.
First and foremost, local and state organizations, not just departments at the Federal level, must adhere to the highest level of security and protocols. Testing should never be permissible or even possible while in production mode. The system deployed must have the capability to allow organizations to test their systems without ever causing unnecessary alarm. Furthermore, our emergency management organizations must ensure their operators are qualified and subject to ongoing training and certification to operate the system. For these reasons, we designed BlackBerry AtHoc with the ability to conduct end-to-end network tests and provide ongoing training online and via “drop in” live instructor led programs for all of our customers.
Organizations should also have the capability to localize and tailor alerts for individual communities. As seen in Houston and in Sonoma, mass alerts don’t always provide the most accurate information as levies break and fires rapidly change course. BlackBerry AtHoc offers localization and geo-targeting, allowing officials to ensure alerts and crisis notifications are delivered to the people immediately affected, providing them with the type of just-in-time information that can literally make the difference between life and death.
Additionally, while emergency alert systems are in place across the country, many of those systems are not connected with other systems in overlapping jurisdictions, which makes it extremely challenging to orchestrate a well-coordinated response among multiple organizations. This leads to wasted minutes in situations where every second counts. During this time of re-evaluation of our public warning systems, the need for cross-system and cross-agency interoperation and coordination must also be a focus of any reform and we believe this means that any deployed system must meet high-security standards such as FedRAMP authorization.
While unfortunate and obviously traumatic for the people of Hawaii, this false alarm also presents an opportunity for real and valuable reform. The U.S. Federal Government can today show leadership in putting forth a comprehensive plan that ensures nothing is spared when it comes to communicating in times of crisis.
For more information on BlackBerry’s industry-leading, secure crisis communications platform that can deliver accurate, targeted or en-masse information in real-time inside and outside an organization, please visit BlackBerry.com/AtHoc.