DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she has been given assurance from her emergency management team that Iowa’s emergency alert system has built-in safeguards designed to avoid a false alarm like the one in Hawaii last weekend that had residents bracing for a possible nuclear attack.
Reynolds said she had her staff contact the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to make sure Iowa could not have a similar situation to one that occurred Saturday when a Hawaii emergency management employee set off a statewide panic by sending out a false alarm about an incoming ballistic missile.
The erroneous message went out when an employee sent the missile alert to cellphones across the state by picking the wrong option on his computer for a routine drill, and then confirming his choice. It took officials 38 minutes to send a corrective alert rescinding the warning as a false alarm.
“I talked to them as soon as I saw that because I can’t imagine the fear and the angst and the anxiety that they were feeling,” Reynolds told her weekly news conference.
Mark Schouten, director of Iowa’s emergency response agency, assured the Governor Iowa has a secure process in place operated by trained personnel. The process, Reynolds said, has multiple validation steps to ensure messages are accurate and appropriate.
Also, she said, procedures are in place to “walk back” any false report immediately, should one go out in error.
“I felt very good with the report that I got back from Director Schouten on the process that we have in place,” Reynolds said. “It’s for any type of an emergency like that. The fact that we have multiple validation steps I think it really important, the fact that we have ongoing training for the individuals responsible for doing that and making sure that the messages are accurate and appropriate.
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“He assured me that they had steps in place to make sure that that didn’t happen, but they also have steps in place that if something did go out that they needed to walk back they could do it immediately,” she noted, “so I felt very confident with the report.”
On a separate topic, the governor indicated new research on the state’s regulatory framework from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University suggests Iowa’s administrative code is overly burdensome to business and industry and impacts growing the economy.
State RegData is a research platform that allows users to quickly analyze state regulations and identify the specific industries most targeted by excessive regulation, said Laura Jones of the research agency.
An analysis of Iowa revealed more than 160,306 state restrictions that would take one person about 563 hours — or more than 14 weeks — to read, Jones said.
Using the new State RegData platform, users will be able to run an analysis comparing regulations across various industries in under a minute.
Jones said Iowa ranked fifth highest in regulations of 20 states Mercatus has studied.
“As governor, I’m committed to eliminating red tape throughout state government,” said Reynolds, who noted the Branstad-Reynolds administration set a goal of reducing onerous state rules and regulations in January 2011.
Efforts to achieve that goal included an executive order signed in 2011 requiring all new regulations be justified by job impact statements and then passing a law one year later requiring all agencies to review their administrative regulations every five years.
Reynolds said that review process is just being completed and the Mercatus research offers a good starting point for a balanced, moderating assessment of state government’s regulatory burden.
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Also Tuesday, Reynolds said she is in no rush to implement new Trump administration guidelines allowing states to require able-bodied Medicaid participants work while receiving program benefits. However, she indicated the new federal restrictions could be considered by Iowa officials “down the road.”
The Iowa governor told reporters her No. 1 priority is convincing state lawmakers to approve and fund her “Future Ready” program that seeks to improve the job prospect for about 127,000 Iowans by bolstering their educational achievement and their workplace skills over the coming years.