The employee has since been fired, and the top two civilian officials at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HEMA) resigned in a shakeup stemming from the scare, it was announced at a news conference in Honolulu.
There were also proceedings to suspend without pay a mid-level agency manager who played a major role in devising the procedures and checklists for HEMA’s missile alerts and drills, said Bruce Oliveira, a retired National Guard general who led a review of the Jan. 13 mishap.
The investigation found the system for activating a missile alert and conducting emergency drills was deeply flawed, lacking sufficient clarity, fail-safe controls or even a pre-programmed way of issuing a false alarm notice to the public.
Those shortcomings came into play the day a supervisor decided to initiate a drill during a weekend shift change, leading a warning system officer to errantly transmit a live missile alert to mobile phones and broadcast stations statewide.
The message, issued amid heightened tension over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, stated: “EMERGENCY ALERT BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
It went uncorrected for 38 minutes and triggered hysteria and confusion across the Pacific island state.