A report released Tuesday shows that the employee who issued a false ballistic missile report a couple of weeks ago in Hawaii did not accidentally push the wrong button after all. Worse, reports indicate that the employee who caused the panic may have almost made the same mistake on at least two prior occasions.
The Federal Communications Commission Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau launched an investigation following the mishap.
Initially, government officials said an employee mistakenly pushed the wrong button in a drop-down menu that sent off a series of alerts just before a shift change January 13 at 8:07 a.m.
According to the new report, it all started when a night-shift supervisor launched a drill for incoming day-shift employees. As it turns out, the day-shift supervisor thought the test was for the outgoing night workers and was, therefore, not prepared to supervise a drill among day-shift workers.
The night-shift supervisor posed as U.S. Pacific Command and played a fake recording of a threat to the emergency workers.
The message included the phrase “Exercise, exercise, exercise,” the FCC report said, but it also included, “This is not a drill,” which is the language used for real missile alerts.
The worker, whose name has not been released, said they did not hear the “exercise” part and believed it was a real event and pushed the button.
The responsible employee provided a written statement about the occurrence to the FCC but declined to be interviewed by investigators.
According to Hawaiian officials, the employee in question had “performance issues” in the past, which had included confusing real-life events and drills on at least two separate occasions.
What did the alert say?
The alert that blasted across cell phones and social media warned: “Emergency Alert BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Television alerts told residents: “If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a nearby building or lie on the floor. We will announce when the threat has ended.”
The findings blame the incident on a combination of human error, inadequate safeguards, and Hawaii’s Emergency Alert System’s lack of preparation for how to respond to a false alert.
What about future drills?
Future alerts and drills will require additional management approvals and a second person to confirm the warning before it’s transmitted.
Hawaii has also suspended emergency alert drills and future drills will require more warning.
State officials have apologized for the incident that sent residents into hysteria for nearly 40 minutes before authorities finally issued a correction
Last week, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) told reporters last week that the reason it took him so long to retract the alert was that he didn’t know his Twitter account password.
This story has been updated.