85°F
weather icon Clear

Clark County wants to avoid false alerts like the one in Hawaii

Inside the conference room at Clark County Fire Station 18 on Thursday, Arlene Chapman signed into AlertSense.

Instead of alerting the masses, the Clark County Emergency Management public warning and resources coordinator scrolled through the application. She clicked “Demo.”

Editing the 90-character message, she wrote TEST in the predrafted text: CIVIL EMERGENCY MESSAGE IN THIS AREA UNTIL 10:24 A.M. PST.

“This is a test,” she said. “Always double-check.”

She and Deputy Fire Chief John Steinbeck test the alert system every week and were doing so Thursday morning, just days after Hawaii and Japan sent out false alerts that a ballistic missile had been launched and was on its way.

“They did the exact opposite; their information said specifically that it was not a test,” Steinbeck said. “So that’s kind of the worst possible scenario.”

When an alert is issued in Clark County, it comes from one of these agencies: Clark County Emergency Management, Henderson, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, the National Weather Service, the state of Nevada or the Southern Nevada Health District, Steinbeck said.

The entities sometimes work together to push alerts to residents, but of the few predrafted alerts, none addresses a missile.

For special circumstances like that, Steinbeck said, he would craft his own message to avoid any mistakes.

“You have the ability to cause panic with this when it’s not used properly,” he said. “We have to make sure that we have the right information and it’s going to the right people.”

That’s the same reason the department decided not to issue an alert for the Oct. 1 mass shooting. There was just too little confirmed information, he said.

Using phones or mobile devices, members of the emergency management teams issue alerts using AlertSense, and they can broadcast the same alerts to TV or radio waves.

The alerts are mostly in regards to flooding, boil water notices or Amber Alerts.

There was once a false blizzard alert many years ago, Chapman said. It was quickly recanted.

Using the digital system, officials also can narrow the alert to a certain geographical area, though neighboring cell towers may receive the same alert.

In Clark County, the most frequent alerts are weather-related, but the Fire Department and other agencies may go door to door for some situations, such as avalanche and boil water warnings.

The most recent message — an Amber Alert — was sent over the summer, in conjuction with the Metropolitan Police Department, for a missing child. He was identified within 10 minutes, Steinbeck said.

Monthly tests conducted for radio and TV broadcasts are spread across different agencies throughout the state.

“We have to find the right middle ground. We’ve actually had classes with our emergency managers called Press the Button,” he said. “You have to be able to use it when it’s right and you have the discretion to.”

But in times when digital or internet service is not available, the agencies retain the old-school analogue system used about five years ago: a radio console in which they can dial in and make statements to be broadcast on TV and radio.

If Nevadans were issued a nuclear missile warning, there would be few options for staying safe, Steinbeck said.

“Any time you’re dealing with destructive power of that nature, there is no master plan as far as where residents are going. It’s time, it’s distance, and it’s shielding,” he said, adding that residents would have to try to go underground or become less exposed.

“There is no ability for Clark County to shelter 2 million residents and hundreds of thousands of visitors,” Steinbeck said.

In addition to alerts, the department uses social media to push out warnings, and the Southern Nevada Community Preparedness app gives more detailed information on how to be prepared for emergencies and how much food, water and supplies they should have on hand in any sort of event, Steinbeck said.

“I hope mistakes made using the app can shed any light,” he said. “And won’t affect any judgment or policy toward this tool, because we need to have this available.”

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Clark County official presses Metro for answers about ICE cooperation

While Clark County Commissioners approved 40 supplemental positions for two understaffed jails Tuesday, Commissioner Justin Jones indicated his future support for more hires will be tied to the Metropolitan Police Department clarifying its role in immigration detention.

County wants joint meeting on potential funding to CCSD

Clark County commissioners on Tuesday signaled that they were unwilling to commit any dollars from a potential quarter-cent sales tax hike to the school district without first meeting with trustees on a plan and accountability.