People Slept On The Job At The Agency That Terrified Hawaii With A False Missile Alert: Emails


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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency that spread panic and fear across the state with a missile alert that turned out to be false alarm has apparently had problems with people literally sleeping on the job, among other issues.

“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT IN BOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” People across the state received this emergency alert on Jan. 13 after an Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee confused a departmental drill for a real missile strike on the Aloha state. As the warning was sent out during a period of heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, the alert caused a lot of unnecessary terror among residents. (RELATED: Fake Ballistic Missile Emergency Warning Rocks Hawaii)

The message was sent through a wireless alert system designed to warn local residents of an imminent nuclear attack.

The state of Hawaii released 300 pages worth of emails related to the incident Tuesday, including a number of exchanges from within the Emergency Management Agency. The emails were then published online by Hawaii News Now. In one particularly disconcerting email to former Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi, an agency employee expresses serious concerns about readiness at the State Warning Point.

“There is resistance to letting SWP do work other than monitoring to ensure they are not distracted,” the employee explained. “However, I believe this has created an environment without stimulation that leads to other types of distraction.”

“On multiple occasions, I’ve observed them watching movies or TV shows,” the unnamed employee added, “Usually they are sitting around looking unoccupied. Approximately two weeks ago, it was reported to me by a staff member who came in early that they observed all three SWP staff on shift asleep.”

That same employee also pointed out serious protocol issues, calling attention to the failure to properly implement a “deactivation” procedure to de-escalate should a missile alert be sent in error or the threat be eliminated.

“Had the protocol been developed within the last 2 months, the delay yesterday would not have happened,” the agency employee told Miyagi, referring to the delay in letting state residents know that the alert had been sent in error. It took more than half an hour for the state to properly notify people that ballistic missiles were, in fact, not on their way to Hawaii.

The employee further revealed that there were no assessments completed to determine “how easy it would be for a staff person to get confused and push the wrong button.” Additionally, they said they “do not have confidence the SWP would be able to independently initiate an activation in response to a no-notice event or that they or most other HI-EMA staff assigned to activate the State Emergency Response Team could do so.”

“It’s an obvious statement we let the people of Hawaii down,” the individual said in his email.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has made major changes since the incident, after which the employee who sent the warning and two senior leaders were removed.

The man who sent out the alert previously described the incident as a “system failure,” arguing that he was “not to blame” for what happened. The agency has stressed that it will not allow another incident to occur on its watch.

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