Sindi MarketteJanuary 30, 2018

SOS, SMS Service! Fake Missile Alert Throws Hawaii into Chaos

By all accounts, the morning of Saturday, January 13, was like any other for the residents inhabiting the islands that make up the state of Hawaii. But instead of waking to an alarm clock, residents received a much more distressing wakeup call.

After an employee of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency mistakenly thought there was a ballistic missile threat, the department sent out an emergency alert to every smartphone owner in the state.


Well actually, it was a drill. And after the alert was sent, nearly 40 minutes transpired before authorities sent out another message giving the all clear that the alert had been sent out in error. And for those 40 minutes, pandemonium took over the state as shocked residents frantically tried to figure out how what to do with a nuclear bomb just minutes away.

Given the stakes, it is fortunate that this false alarm didn’t escalate any further. But nonetheless, such a mistake underscores how powerful a tool SMS can be. And though your business may not be responsible for nuclear codes, there are clear morals to be learned from this story.

Designing better workflows:

How could human error have led to this type of mistake? The problem may have to do with poorly designed software. The individual at fault uses a drop-down menu for SMS notifications. The button for testing the system and the button for actual threats appear side by side in the menu, making a monumental accident as simple as moving your mouse a centimeter in the wrong direction.

Leveraging more intuitive software that has been designed with clear delineation in workflow could easily have prevented this situation by building certain checks into the system. As it turns out, proper screening and training of employees could further safeguard your SMS communications. 

The case for automation:

The ability to automate workflows is concept that is still in a relative state of infancy. Nonetheless, important processes pertaining to widespread distribution of outbound messages could easily be performed with the introduction of automation, freeing up human resources for more complex tasks to avoid careless errors while letting the certainty of your system guide your messaging campaign.

Leverage SMS to improve, not disrupt:

The chaos that ensued across Hawaii that Saturday morning could easily have been mitigated had another message gotten out to the public immediately after the false alert was issued. SMS is a powerful tool for reaching your audience where they live, in real time. But that is a significant responsibility, too. Your campaigns must be guided with the knowledge that when you enter a customer’s world in real time, it must improve, rather than disrupt, the moment.

There are few instances in which SMS has the possibility of leading the world to the brink of war, but that doesn’t mean that every business doesn’t indeed have its battles to fight. But when it comes to communicating directly with your customers, you’ve got to be clear.

To learn how you can improve communications with messaging on Zang Cloud development platform, click here, or start building your SMS service on Zang Cloud today. 


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