Blogged about the problem of the false alert in Hawaii the other day. Kottke has a post showing the actual screen the operator was faced with, and a discussion of some of the issues. I'm stealing the image from him:
This is obviously terrible system design. What interests me is the haphazard combination of situations. What I'd guess has happened is someone came up with a state/county alert system, and situations have been added to it. What's striking is the variety of organizations which can trigger an alert: police can trigger an AmberAlert, weather bureau can generate high surf, USGS can issue the tsunanmi warning, etc. So there seem to be a bunch of inputs to the one person who then makes the selection, each selection presumably with a different set of addressees and a preset canned message.
I wonder what happens when the person is away from her desk, in the bathroom, on leave, etc. I have a hard time believing that the desk is manned/womanned 24 hours a day with no lapses.