Preventing panic in an emergency situation

Preventing panic in an emergency situation
Just some of the emergency supplies you need on hand. (Source: Tucson News Now)
Just some of the emergency supplies you need on hand. (Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - For the second time in less than a month, emergency officials sent out a false alarm.

A false ballistic missile alert was emitted in Hawaii and a tsunami test went out as a warning along the east coast.

Those were real alerts, but luckily false alarms. But for folks along the coast and even here in Arizona the threat of an emergency is very real.

Kyla Breland with the Pima County Office of Emergency Management told Tucson News Now, the geography of Arizona helps, but the desert presents its own dangers.

"Probably what we're looking at for the big one is a re-occurrence of the 1983 floods or a very large wildfire," said Breland.

When an event like that happens, the Emergency Operations Center headquarters can be activated within minutes.

If the emergency threatened life and property, officials would immediately send a notification to the public using Pima County's MyAlert system.

And if the threat was big enough, residents would be notified through a federally vetted system called IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System). Those are alerts the public would get on their phones, through broadcasts via the radio or TV.

According to Breland, Tucson isn't necessarily at a heightened risk for an attack despite having a missile manufacturer and military base in town.

"We're in very close contact with representatives at Raytheon and Davis-Monthan so if something were to come about, we would have that conversation," said Breland.

Jim Fisher, the Technical Communications Manager for Pima County's Emergency Management Office, says there are several safeguards in place to prevent a situation like the false alert that went out in Hawaii.

To send an alert, there are different sets of credentials that have to be requested.

Alerts can also be isolated to a specific area based on cell towers, as would be used in a school shooting type situation. And while we hope to never have to hear that alert, the public should be prepared with a 72-hour kit in their homes and vehicles.

Here's a list of what you should have: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/90354

When an emergency does happen, social media is certain to play a big role. It's a quick way for the public to get information, but just be careful of where it is coming from.

Breland says it's a good way to monitor what information is out in the public, so that misinformation or rumors can be corrected quickly.

The ultimate goal is to keep the public informed without causing too much panic.

"You have hysteria, that's just the nature of humans, but you can reduce that with good information," said Fisher.

Sign up for MyAlerts here: myalerts.pima.gov

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