The Hawaii state employee responsible for sending out an erroneous missile alert of a ballistic missile threat has been reassigned.
“The employee in question has been temporarily reassigned within our Emergency Operations Center pending the outcome of our internal investigation. We have also suspended routine missile warning drills,” according to spokesman Richard Rapoza.
A Saturday morning alert warning Hawaii residents of an incoming ballistic missile threw the archipelago into a panic and left officials scrambling to reassure resident that they were safe. Hawaii Governor David Ige called it “a day most of us will never forget — a day when many in our community thought that our worst nightmares might actually be happening”.
Officials have been under intense pressure to explain the mishap, which they have attributed to a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee making an error during a shift change.
“I know first-hand that what happened today was totally unacceptable,” Mr Ige told reporters after the event. “I’m, too, very angry and disappointed that this happened. We are doing everything that we can immediately to ensure it never happens again,” he added.
Since the false alarm, Hawaii has moved to review its alert cancellation procedures and has suspended drills.
“We have instituted a two-person verification system before an alert can be sent, and created and programmed the templates needed to issue an immediate False Alarm message if necessary, including identifying appropriate communications channels for that message,” Mr Rapoza said.
The Federal Communications Commission has also launched an investigation, warning that “the government of Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place”.
A belligerent North Korea’s threats to hurl ballistic missiles at the United States have heightened the stakes for emergency-alert systems, with Pyongyang’s aggression making the risk of an attack more plausible.