The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is blaming Hawaii — and not an individual employee — after an accidental warning was sent out telling the public a ballistic missile was barreling towards the state.
On Jan. 13 the false emergency alert sent a widespread panic across Hawaii for 38 minutes, as cellphones, TVs and radio relayed the message: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Hawaii officials later apologized and said the alert was sent when an employee hit the wrong button during a shift change.
On Tuesday, the FCC released a report on the incident, placing fault on the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s (HI-EMA) procedures, saying inadequate safeguards and human error are to blame for the faulty alert.
The warning officer who sent the false alert refused to talk to the agency, but provided a written statement, the FCC said. In the statement, the employee said he believed it was an actual alert, rather than a drill, and clicked yes in response to a prompt that read: “Are you sure that you want to send this Alert?,” the FCC said in a presentation.
The drill recording did not follow the standard script for a drill but included the phrase: “This is not a drill.” It ended with the phrase, “Exercise, exercise, exercise.” The officer who issued the alert heard “This is not a drill” but did not hear “Exercise, exercise, exercise,” he told Hawaii in a written statement.
He then sent the alert.
“HI-EMA’s lack of preparation for how to respond to the transmission of a false alert was largely responsible for the 38-minute delay in
correcting the alert” the FCC concluded.
The FCC is continuing its investigation into the incident.
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press