Hawaii false missile alert ‘button pusher’ fired

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HONOLULU — The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee who triggered the false ballistic missile alert earlier this month has been fired, said the state adjutant general.

The employee, who was not been named, said he didn’t know it was an exercise even though five other employees in the room heard “exercise, exercise, exercise, which indicates that it is a drill,” an investigating officer told reporters Tuesday.

Retired Brig. Gen. Bruce Oliveira said, “When it became apparent that the real-world alert was issued,” the employee “seemed confused, he froze and another employee had to take over his responsibilities.”

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

The firing was the latest fallout after an internal investigation found “that insufficient management controls, poor computer software design and human factors contributed” to the alert and a delayed correction message on January 13.

Maj. Gen. Joe Logan, state adjutant general, said Vern Miyagi, administrator of the state emergency management agency, has resigned.

Miyagi accepted full responsibility for the incident and the actions of his employees, Logan said. Another employee is in the process of being suspended without pay and a third employee resigned before any disciplinary action was taken, Logan said.

Recommendations released to prevent future false missile alerts

Oliveira made two dozen recommendations, including eliminating practice drills during a shift change, stronger confirmation prompts for those sending an alert and improved training.

Oliveira’s findings echoed an earlier Federal Communications Commission report.

The FCC report said the emergency management worker thought the state was under attack and sent out the warning that sent residents into panic.

“Many things went wrong in Hawaii,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a published statement. “I don’t say this for the purpose of casting blame or disparaging Hawaiian officials. We simply need to identify the problems in order to fix them — not just in Hawaii, but anywhere else where they may exist.”

The warning worker heard “this is not a drill” but did not hear “exercise, exercise, exercise” in a drill call and sent out an incoming ballistic missile alert throughout the state, according to the FCC.

“According to the written statement, this day shift warning officer therefore believed that the missile threat was real,” the FCC said.

The worker would not speak to FCC officials in person and submitted the account of the incident in writing, the report noted.

The event sent the state into panic for 38 minutes until officials sent out a message saying the warning was a mistake.

Gov. David Ige came under criticism over the delay and he later said that he couldn’t hop on Twitter because he forgot his password.

Apart from Hawaii’s investigation, the FCC had also been looking into the incident, as the state came under criticism for lacking “reasonable safeguards.”

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 person responsible for the mistake was disciplined and reassigned, but not fired, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency said earlier this month.

There were two “troubling things” in the FCC preliminary findings, Pai said.

The state “didn’t have reasonable safeguards in place to prevent human error from resulting in the transmission of a false alert,” the statement said. The second main problem, Pai said, was there was no plan of action if a false alert went out.

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