Worker who sent Hawaii missile false alarm believed threat was real

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The emergency management worker who sent a false missile alert that led to a terrifying 38 minutes for Hawaii earlier this month said the worker believed the threat was real, according to a preliminary federal investigation.

“A combination of human error and inadequate safeguards contributed to this false alert,” the Federal Communications Commission said in remarks on the preliminary report released Tuesday.

The FCC report laid out a detailed timeline of the miscommunication that led to the transmission of the ballistic missile alert on Jan. 13, which sent some scrambling to seek shelter amid an increased threat from North Korea.

Later Tuesday, officials releasing results of the state’s internal investigation announced that the head of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency, Vern Miyagi, had “taken full responsibility” for the incident and resigned Tuesday morning.

The employee who sent the false alert was terminated, officials said. Earlier this month, authorities said that worker had been “reassigned.”

Another staffer resigned before any disciplinary action was taken, and the agency was in the process of suspending another employee without pay, state Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Joe Logan said at a news conference.

The morning of the false alarm, the midnight shift supervisor at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency decided to conduct a spontaneous ballistic missile defense drill during the transition to the day shift, according to the FCC report.

At around 8 a.m. local time (1 p.m. ET), the midnight shift supervisor informed the dayshift supervisor about the plan to conduct that drill, but the incoming supervisor believed it was only for the midnight shift officers — not the officers about to begin, according to the report.

“As a result, the day shift supervisor was not in the proper location to supervise the day shift warning officers when the ballistic missile defense drill was initiated,” the report said.

The midnight shift supervisor initiated that drill at around 8:05 a.m., pretending to be the U.S. Pacific Command and playing a recorded message over the phone to the day shift officer, according to the report.

The recorded message began and ended with the phrase “exercise, exercise, exercise,” according to the report, but also featured language scripted for use during an actual live ballistic missile test alert, including the sentence, “This is not a drill.”




Image: Cars drive past a highway sign that reads "MISSILE ALERT ERROR THERE IS NO THREAT"

Cars drive past a highway sign that reads “MISSILE ALERT ERROR THERE IS NO THREAT” on the H-1 Freeway in Honolulu on Jan. 13, 2018