On Jan. 13th, a false emergency alert was issued to Hawaii residents that read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Of all the emergency disaster alerts, an incoming ballistic missile is probably going to cause the most chaos. What’s worse is that it took about 40 minutes to correct the error! Also interesting is the two different excuses that were given.
Shortly after the incident, Hawaii officials described it as an accident. A state employee seemed to have “pressed the wrong button.”, as stated by Gov. David Y. Ige. The state employee responsible for sending the alert, in a written statement, told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that he sent it purposely because he actually believed there was an incoming missile. Why, do you ask?
Apparently, emergency management officials knew that an internal drill was supposed to happen. The state employee who sent the alert worked during the day shift and misinterpreted testing instructions from a supervisor who worked the midnight shift. The employee believed the instructions were for a real emergency and did not hear “EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE,” in the message.
The employee has been reassigned and measures have been taken to update policies on sending alerts and the necessary procedures for approval. Hawaii, for example, will require supervisors to receive warnings prior to a drill and two officers will need to transmit and validate every alert before it’s sent out.
A general update suggested by the commission would allow state officials to send alerts on a geographical level. This would make it so alerts are only sent to residents living in the immediate area in which an emergency is occurring. Although I see the benefit of geographical alerts, I also wouldn’t be too fond of not knowing about an emergency until I’m informed by other persons.
Is there more of a need to focus on how drills are run and approval procedures, or how alerts are sent out?
UPDATE: The employee not cooperating responsible for this false alarm has been terminated!