A top member of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA) resigned on Tuesday, over two weeks after his organization issued a false alarm saying a missile was headed for the isolated US state.
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi has accepted “full responsibility for the incident on January 13 and the actions of all his employees,” said Major General Joe Logan, the director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, during a press conference.
“He submitted his letter of resignation this morning and I have accepted that resignation,” he added.
The announcement was made the same day as a preliminary report revealed that an HIEMA employee thought the missile danger was real and not 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,” the report, released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said on Tuesday.
The worker who sent the false alarm has been sacked, one employee resigned and another will be suspended, Logan said during the press conference.
The employee had a history of “confusing drills and real-world events,” said Bruce Oliveira, who is in charge of the FCC investigation, during the press conference.
Tuesday’s report contradicts Hawaii’s governor, who said in the hours after the scare that the mistake occurred during a routine shift change when an employee “pushed the wrong button.”
The mistake in fact started when a night shift supervisor, in order to test the day shift with an unscheduled drill, played a message that included both the drill language “exercise” and the incoming ballistic threat language “this is not a drill,” the FCC report said.
Other workers understood that the message was a drill but the warning officer did not, the report said.
The alert was pushed to mobile phones across the archipelago in the Pacific, terrifying people as they huddled in bathtubs and ran for shelters.
“A combination of human error and inadequate safeguards contributed
to the transmission of this false alert,” the preliminary report said.
It also faulted HIEMA’s lack of “preparations” for the 38-minute delay in correcting the alert.
“Federal, state, and local officials must work together to prevent such a false alert from happening again,” it said.
The FCC oversees US public airwaves and the nation’s emergency alert system. The agency said the final report on the incident will include recommendations to prevent alerts being sent in error in the future.
The false alarm came amid tensions regarding North Korea’s testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and heated rhetoric exchanged by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.