According to a recent article from Sitka, Alaska’s KCAW radio station, software malfunctions of a live test of the state’s Tsunami Warning System triggered “live codes,” resulting in public fright within several coastline communities.
Most inhabitants of Alaska’s coastline are accustomed to hearing the words “This is a test” during radio and television broadcasts, but the message was triggered as a live warning, very similar to messages received following an earthquake in January 2013.
Jeremy Zidek, public information officer with the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said about the importance of software testing in the article, “Every year when we test the live codes we do find anomalies, some places where we do need to improve the system. But that’s the purpose of the test.”
Joel Curtis of the National Weather Service said the message that was broadcast was an actual warning template, which accidentally overwrote the warning message that was supposed to be triggered for the live test. The faulty test was followed-up by a call burst from the Code Red system in the Sitka Police Department, reassuring residents that the tsunami warning that they heard was in fact just a test.
The annual test has taken place on the anniversary of the 1964 Alaska Good Friday Earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami that killed 131 people. Without effective software testing in place, coding errors could trigger faulty messages much like what happened along the coast of Alaska, resulting in a public scare.