Hawaii employee mistook drill for real missile attack

Hawaii employee mistook drill for real missile attack”

Despite being prefaced by language indicating it was an exercise, an emergency message intended as a drill for staff at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency was incorrectly interpreted as real, leading the agency spread the false alarm about a missile attack that caused widespread panic throughout the islands on January 13.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, according to the Washington Post, issued the threat alarm at 8:07 a.m. on January 13 and two minutes later the alert was sent across the state, to which Hawaiian Governor David Ige was told that it was a false one.

The worker, who was sacked Friday and whose name has not been revealed, has confused real-life events and drills in the past, according to the state's report on its internal investigation.

That's why no one was expecting it when the nightside manager, pretending to be a Navy fleet officer, called the dayside warning officers and played them a prerecorded message signaling the start of the drill. The recording began by saying "exercise, exercise, exercise", language that is consistent with the beginning of the script for the drill. "It thus included the sentence 'this is not a drill.' The recording ended by saying again, 'exercise, exercise, exercise.' Three on-duty warning officers in the agency's watch center received this message, simulating a call from US Pacific Command on speakerphone". The incoming day supervisor was then said to be unaware the 08:05 drill would involve any incoming day officers, who were then not told about the exercise.

"Hawaii's alert software allows users to send live alerts and test alerts using the same interface", said James Wiley, an attorney adviser at the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

The report said the mix-up happened after a midnight supervisor at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency made a decision to conduct a spontaneous drill during a shift transition. "Seek immedate shelter this is not a drill". It was the first indication the alert was purposely sent, adding another level of confusion to the misstep that created panic at a time of fear over the threat of North Korean missiles.

The FCC report said the emergency management worker thought the state was under attack and sent out the warning that sent residents into panic. "There is no missile threat to Hawaii".

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Pacific Command officials could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

The leader of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), Vern Miyagi, also resigned over the incident on Tuesday, and another agency worker was suspended without pay.

The FCC report also criticised Hawaii's lack of cancellation procedures in the event a false message was sent.

At a recent commission hearing, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stressed the need for new safeguards to prevent further false alerts.

"Every state and local government that originates alerts needs to learn from these mistakes", Pai continued. Seven minutes after the alert was sent, officials stopped broadcasting the alert.

Ige's annoucement will also include "some of the personnel actions that will occur within the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency" as a result of the investigation, according to the Hawaii Department of Defense. This move is aimed at making the distribution of alerts more accurate so that those outside of an emergency area will not receive warnings that do not affect them.

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