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Hawaii at fault for false emergency missile alert, not employee: FCC

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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.”

READ MORE: Accidental ballistic missile alert warning issued to cell phones, TV and radio in Hawaii

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.

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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.

READ MORE: Donald Trump responds to Hawaii’s false missile 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.

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The FCC is continuing its investigation into the incident.

— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press

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