Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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Hawaii’s top two civil defense officials resign over false missile alert

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.

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