Wicker: Amateur Radio Essential to Emergency Response

Miss. Senator Highlights Radio Operators Rapid Response to Hawaii’s False Ballistic Missile Alert

January 25, 2018

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, today attended a hearing to examine U.S. emergency alert systems in the wake of a false ballistic missile alert in Hawaii that left citizens terrified as various state and federal agencies struggled to correct the error.

In a series of questions to Mike Lisenco, a member of the Board of Directors for the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), Wicker underscored the rapid response of amateur radio operators to a false emergency alert that told Hawaii residents to seek immediate shelter from an incoming ballistic missile. As Lisenco told the committee, amateur radio operators were able to confirm within 13 minutes that the alert was false. An official retraction of the alert did not come until 38 minutes had elapsed.

Wicker also asked Lisenco about the role of amateur radio operators in disaster response, specifically in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and other widespread disasters. Lisenco noted the inherent resiliency of amateur radio as a distributed form of communications infrastructure that is easily adapted to changing emergency conditions.

Wicker has been an active advocate for amateur radio operators in Congress, sponsoring the “Amateur Radio Parity Act” with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., which would help ease regulations that have prevented the installation of the necessary radio infrastructure that could aid in disaster response.

Other witnesses at today’s hearing included:

  • Ms. Lisa M. Fowlkes, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
  • Mr. Scott Bergmann, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, CTIA – The Wireless Association
  • Sam Matheny, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, National Association of Broadcasters