Hawaii EMA officer who issued false missile alert fired

Hawaii Gov. David Ige and Emergency Management Agency officials said the employee who issued a false missile alert earlier this month has been fired. Photo courtesy Gov. David Ige/Facebook

Jan. 30 (UPI) — The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency official who issued a false missile alert earlier this month has been fired, and three others were either suspended or resigned, officials said.

Gov. David Ige and HI-EMA officials said the employee who issued the alert was fired on Friday, a HI-EMA deputy resigned after Jan. 13, a third employee is suspended without pay and HI-EMA administrator Vern Miyagi resigned Tuesday morning

“Gen. Miyagi, a respected military leader and honorable man, has taken full responsibility and submitted letter of resignation today,” said Adjutant Gen. Maj. Gen. Joe Logan, who ordered an investigation.

Retired Brig. Gen. Bruce Oliveira, who headed the internal investigation into the incident, said the employee who issued the alert had been a source of concern for more than 10 years.

The false alert resulted from a miscommunication between state supervisors announcing a drill and the employee who issued the alert, the Federal Communications Commission said.

The employee who sent the false alert wasn’t aware it was a drill, according to the statement issued Tuesday, which gives a breakdown of what the FCC believes went wrong.

Oliveira’s report found the employee had been “counseled” for confusing drills for real events at least twice before, once for a fire and once for a tsunami.

The false alert happened during what was supposed to be a normal simulation exercise, beginning with a mock call from a warning officer and ending with a test alert to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But the exercise went awry when a supervisor’s recorded message included the phrase “exercise, exercise, exercise” but also mistakenly included the phrase “this is not a drill,” according to the preliminary report.

Hearing the words “this is not a drill” prompted the warning officer to send the alert, believing it was an actual emergency.

“Based on our investigation to date, the bureau believes that a combination of human error and inadequate safeguards contributed to this false alert,” said James Wiley, an attorney adviser for the FCC’s Cybersecurity and Communications Reliability Division.

The person responsible for sending the false ballistic missile alert refused to talk with the FCC, but the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency provided information last week from a written statement made by the individual shortly after the incident.

There also was miscommunication between outgoing and incoming shift managers around the time of the drill, Wiley said.

“With respect to human error, due to a miscommunication between the midnight shift supervisor and day shift supervisor, the drill was run without sufficient supervision,” Wiley said. “With respect to inadequate safeguards, most importantly, there were no procedures in place to prevent a single person from mistakenly sending a missile alert to the state of Hawaii.”

Wiley said also troubling is that Hawaii’s alert origination software did not distinguish between the testing environment and the live-alert production environment.

The FCC statement was critical of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s handling of the correction and said sending new information on social media rather than via the same alerting system it used to send the false alert was not the best practice.


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