Human Error, Poor Safeguards Contribute To False Missile Alarm, FCC Finds

Katrina Barker
January 31, 2018

Another employee is in the process of being suspended without pay and a third employee resigned before any disciplinary action was taken, Logan said. Gen. Arthur Logan during the press conference Tuesday on the findings of their independent investigation.

Hours after the report was issued, Hawaii's emergency management administrator resigned and the worker who sent the alert was sacked. The man who sent it was sacked on Friday. His supervisors counselled him but kept him for a decade in a position that had to be renewed each year. "He is unable to comprehend the situation at hand". The official chose live test and then when prompted with the message "Are you sure that you want to send this alert?" - which is also the exact same message and prompt that appears during a test - clicked yes.

In the chaos of the initial alert being sent, he had been directed to send a message cancelling the threat, according to the state's internal investigation. Reading this litany of dopey mistakes and inept planning, you nearly expect to learn that Hawaii somehow attempted to launch its own nuclear counterstrike on North Korea, failing at the last moment only because the launch computer wasn't plugged in. But the employee "just sat there and didn't respond. and seemed confused" the report says.

Last week, an FCC official told a Senate committee hearing that the employee who sent out the false missile alert was not cooperating with its investigation.

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.

The midnight shift supervisor initiated the drill by placing a call to the day shift warning officers, pretending to be US Pacific Command.

In accordance with standard procedures, the night-shift supervisor in the role of Pacific Command played a recorded message to the workers warning them of a threat.

This message included the phrase "Exercise, exercise, exercise" but also the phrase "This is not a drill". And out the alert went.

Now the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has been investigating the mistake, has revealed that the employee was taking part in an emergency drill but got confused by its wording and pressed the panic button for real. He still works at Hawaii Emergency Management Agency but has been reassigned to a job without access to the warning system.

The Hawaii state emergency worker - who officials said hit the "wrong button" when he - actually believed the Aloha State was under attack, it was revealed Tuesday.

The employee "had a history of confusing drill and real-world events", Oliveira said.

Hawaii Governor David Ige was notified two minutes after the alert that it was indeed a mistake.

Hawaii has already taken steps to prevent future gaffes, and the FCC expects to make its own recommendations with its final report. The false alarm was sent out to cell phones, TVs, and radio stations throughout the state. 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. Wireless emergency alerts warning of danger are typically sent out by state and local officials through a partnership between the FCC, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the wireless industry.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

Discuss This Article