Hawaii employee who sent false missile alert fired; top official resigns

AP False missile alert employee thought real attack imminent

The worker who sent the alarm either failed to hear or failed to heed the words "exercise, exercise, exercise" that preceded and followed the practice message warning of an incoming missile attack, according to the Federal Communications Commission report issued Tuesday morning.

State and federal inquiries into the January 13 incident - in which the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency broadcast a missile-attack warning on residents' phones, televisions and radios - concluded that the employee did not accidentally click a wrong button on a confusing computer menu, as officials originally said.

The report states a midnight shift supervisor at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency chose to conduct a surprise ballistic missile drill during the transition to the day shift, specifically to test staffers under stress.

The report concluded that a combination of human error, absence of safeguards and inadequate computer programs contributed to the incident.

The individual who sent an emergency text to everyone in Hawaii warning them of an imminent missile attack did not hit the wrong button as first claimed - and was actually convinced a real attack was happening. It also said the agency chief, Vern Miyagi, stepped down on Tuesday.

New information about the Hawaiian false missile alert has surfaced.

Ige later admitted that there was a delay in notifying the public about the false missile alert earlier this month as he did not know the password of his Twitter account. On Tuesday he issued a statement on the preliminary findings of the report.

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A written statement from the day-shift warning officer who initiated the false alarm acknowledged hearing "This is not a drill" but not "Exercise, exercise, exercise". "THIS IS NOT A DRILL." went uncorrected for an agonizing 38 minutes. It included the phrase "Exercise, exercise, exercise", but also contained the phrase "this is not a drill" - a mistake. State and local officials work in partnership with the FCC, FEMA and private telecoms when sending out emergency alerts. It took another 38 minutes for the unprepared agency to send an alert correcting the mistake, though social media messages were sent quicker.

Another issue was that the software in use at Hawaii's emergency agency used the same prompts for real alerts and for tests.

The Emergency Management Agency offered mental health counseling to the employees involved to "help recover from this traumatic event".

The FCC said there was no requirement to double-check with a colleague or get a supervisor's approval before sending the alert to mobile phones and TV and radio stations across the state.

In a written statement, the employee, who was not identified, said he believed there was a real emergency on January 13 after hearing a recording that stated "THIS IS NOT A DRILL".

Hawaii "didn't have reasonable safeguards in place", Ajit Pai, the commission chair, said. The day-shift supervisor thought the test was aimed at outgoing night-shift workers and was unprepared to supervise the test. It could also reduce the risk of desensitizing the public - you don't want to miss a life-or-death alert because you've received one too many irrelevant warnings.

The correction was sent to phones: "False Alert".

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