Alaska emergency officials blame third-party vendor for errant tsunami alert

Published: Jun. 12, 2018 at 3:38 PM AKDT
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Authorities say a third-party vendor is to blame for a mistaken tsunami alert broadcast on Alaska TV and radio stations last month.

Dennis Bookey, co-chair of the Alaska State Emergency Communications Committee, says this and similar incidents suggest the format of the National Weather Service's internal testing system for tsunamis should be reviewed.

Bookey's comments came in a written account 10 days after the errant alert was broadcast May 11. It was provided this week to The Associated Press by Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for Alaska's emergency management division.

Zidek said improvements are being made to the Emergency Alert System, and in this case, updated codes were not recognized.

Bookey says the software coding issue was corrected after it was discovered.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service says a statement the agency released following an errant tsunami alert in Alaska last month was incorrect.

After the incident, spokeswoman Susan Buchanan said a properly coded message was somehow re-transmitted in an abbreviated format, which stripped the "test" coding and caused activation of the Emergency Alert System in Alaska.

But on Tuesday, she said that statement, based on an initial early review of the incident, was incorrect.

She says the agency later found that was not the cause of the problem when officials in Alaska notified the agency that a vendor had not recognized the test message as a test.

She says the agency conducts monthly tests and works with vendors to resolve issues when they arise.