Several days after people in Hawaii scrambled to find safety when a false alert warned them that a ballistic missile was heading straight for the island, state officials have revealed more details regarding how the error was made.
In some respects, however, it appears that officials are having a hard time keeping their story straight.
First, officials said someone had pushed the “wrong button,” but in reality, an employee of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency chose the wrong option from a drop-down menu on a computer program, according to The Washington Post.
On Monday, the office of Hawaii governor David Ige shared with the Honolulu Civil Beat what was supposedly the screen that set off the missile alert.
The employee responsible for the error apparently clicked on the “PACOM (CDW) – State Only” link rather than the “drill” link, thus triggering the false warning.
Moreover, the “BMD False Alarm” link at the top of the screenshot had been added later on to ensure that similar incidents like this don’t happen again.
But after that image was released, many on Twitter criticized HEMA for the set-up of an interface that has the potential to affect so many people.
It didn’t take long for officials in Hawaii to backtrack and say that the picture provided was more of an example, rather than an identical image of what the employee would have seen on the screen.
According to HEMA, providing an actual screenshot would make the system vulnerable to hackers, the Civil Beat reported.
A representative from the governor’s office, though, said that when they released the image, they did not know at the time it was not a real screenshot.
“We asked (Hawaii Emergency Management Agency) for a screenshot and that’s what they gave us,” Ige spokeswoman Jodi Leong said Tuesday. “At no time did anybody tell me it wasn’t a screenshot.”
Leong received the image in a text from HEMA Administrator Vern Miyagi, then shared it with the media.
But HEMA public information officer Richard Rapoza said he was not aware Miyagi was going to provide the governor’s office with the image.
“It was not handled officially through our office,” Rapoza said. “That’s on us. That’s on our office, that an error was made in the way we handled the governor’s request.”
“The governor’s office wanted to know what did this look like and it should have been more fully explained to them. I personally apologize,” he added.
HEMA also released a new image, which they said was more similar to what the employee would have seen.
“This is a close facsimile. The operator should have selected the ‘DRILL-PACOM (DEMO)’ option, but instead clicked on the ‘PACOM (CDW)’ option,” Rapoza told Hawaii News Now.
HEMA has also suggested that the employee responsible for the error would have had one final chance to correct his mistake.
A screen would have come up asking, “Are you sure you want to do this?” according to Miyagi. But the employee confirmed he wanted to send out the alert, thus sparking panic throughout the island.
“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” read the resulting alert that residents and tourists received on their phones.
On TV screens, people were warned to find shelter indoors and remain away from windows.
It took 38 minutes after the warning first went out for the error to be rectified by an additional text message alert, though HEMA soon clarified on Twitter that there was “no missile threat.”
Following the false alert, Ige pledged that something similar “won’t happen again.” He also apologized for the incident.
The worker who initiated the drill will not be fired, but instead will be temporarily reassigned.
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