On Saturday, an emergency alert reached the phones of Hawaii’s residents by accident, after an employee “pushed the wrong button”
How could such a big error happen? On Sunday, the Emergency Management Agency provided details on what went wrong.
Everything happened during a routine drill run after a shift change, according to Vern Miyagi, the administrator of the agency.
During the drill, an officer mistakenly selected the wrong “template” that shows what message is going to be sent. The one selected by the officer was ready to be sent to the public. However, he was supposed to select a template that would be sent internally only.
Miyagi added that once a template is selected, a note appears on the computer asking the user to confirm that they want to send the message.
The officer in charge accidently clicked yes. The message said: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL” and was sent to all Hawaii residents, vacationers, televisions and radios.
Unfortunately, at that very moment, there was not template that allowed them to send a follow-up message informing recipients that it was a false alarm.
However, that’s now been changes. A false alarm template has been added and a manager on duty will also have to confirm sending the message, both during tests and in the case of a real threat.
The officer who made the terrible mistake has been disciplined and reassigned, Miyagi said. However, he was not fired.
It took the agency 38 minutes to send a second alert confirming that the first message was a false alarm, during which extreme panic was present everywhere in Hawaii.
“I know firsthand that what happened today was totally unacceptable,” Gov. David Ige said Saturday, “and many in our community was deeply affected by this. And I’m sorry for that pain and confusion that anyone might have experienced.”