The details about Hawaii’s false missile alarm are still trickling out, and with each new one, the error becomes both more confounding and more terrifyingly slapstick. On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Communication released a preliminary report on the matter, revealing that it wasn’t an honest mistake after all, and that the person who sent the alert actually believed that it was real.
Here’s the text from the report (also in the image; I’m reproducing here in case the image is hard to read):
HI-EMA’s midnight shift supervisor begins a no-notice ballistic missile defense drill at a shift change by placing a call, pretending to be U.S. Pacific Command, to the day shift warning officers.
The midnight shift supervisor plays a recording over the phone that properly includes the drill language “EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE,” but also erroneously contains the text of an EAS message for a live ballistic missile alert, including the language, “THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The recording does not follow the script contained in HI-EMA’s standard operating procedure for this drill.
The day shift warning officers receive this recorded message on speakerphone.
While other warning officers understand that this is a drill, the warning officer at the alert origination terminal claimed to believe, in a written statement provided to HIEMA, that this was a real emergency, not a drill.
This day shift warning officer responds, as trained for a real event, by transmitting a live incoming ballistic missile alert to the State of Hawaii.
In doing so, the day shift warning officer selects the template for a live alert from a drop-down menu, and clicks “yes” in response to a prompt that reads, “Are you sure that you want to send this Alert?”
This all occurred just after 8 a.m. local time on January 13. Within two minutes, the Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency knew it had sent out a false alarm, but, as the report outlines, it took 38 minutes to correct it.
0809 • HI-EMA notifies Hawaii Governor of false alert
0810 • HI-EMA to U.S. Pacific Command and Honolulu PD: no missile launch
0812 • HI-EMA issues a cancellation, ceasing retransmission over EAS, WEA
0813 • HI-EMA begins outreach, but its phone lines become congested.
0820 • HI-EMA posts on Facebook, Twitter – “NO missile threat to Hawaii”
0824 • Hawaii Governor retweets notice that there is no missile threat.
0827 • HI-EMA determines that an EAS, WEA Civil Emergency Message (CEM) is the best vehicle for correction.
0830 • FEMA confirms HI-EMA’s view on CEM; Hawaii Governor posts correction on Facebook.
0831 • HI-EMA supervisor logs into alert system, begins to create false alert correction.
0845 • HI-EMA issues correction through EAS and WEA that there is no missile threat
The FCC’s report seems a bit skeptical that the person that sent the report in fact believed that a missile was coming, saying that the officer “claimed to believe” that a missile was coming. What I can’t get over, assuming they did indeed believe it was coming, is how they kept their composure at all. Maybe they didn’t, and simultaneously started screaming and defecating in the office while pressing click. Just another terrifying, sad day on the internet.
Update, 5:09 p.m.: The worker has been fired, and the emergency agency’s administrator has resigned, according to the Associated Press. There’s also, uh, this: