The Hawaii state emergency worker who sent the false public safety alert earlier this month warning of an imminent missile attack thought the unscheduled practice drill was a real launch against the islands.
According to a preliminary report issued by the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, there was a miscommunication between the supervisors announcing the drill and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency worker who issued the alert, which led to widespread confusion and fear throughout the state.
For 38 minutes on Jan. 13, many islanders thought an inbound ballistic missile could strike at any moment after they had been directed to take cover.
The communication foul-up came as the day-shift team took over from the night shift.
The Washington Post reported, “Following standard procedures, the night-shift supervisor posing as Pacific Command played a recorded message to the emergency workers warning them of the fake threat.”
“The message included the phrase ‘Exercise, exercise, exercise.’ But the message inaccurately included the phrase ‘This is not a drill,'” according to the paper.
The worker did not hear the “exercise” portion of the message, but did hear the phrase “This is not a drill” and acted accordingly.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated on Tuesday that Hawaii’s emergency agency did not have adequate safeguards in place to prevent false warnings.
Moreover, it did not have a proper procedure for quickly correcting mistakes, The Hill reported.
“Every state and local government that originates alerts needs to learn from these mistakes,” Pai said at an FCC meeting.
“Each should ensure that it has adequate safeguards in place to prevent the transmission of false alerts, and each should have a plan in place for how to immediately correct a false alert,” he added.
According to The Hill, FCC officials have not spoken directly with the employee who issued the false alert, because he has refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Hawaii plans to issue a separate report later on Tuesday.
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