Honolulu Star-Advertiser on the false missile alert that sent Hawaii into a 38-minute panic

Published 8:09 am Thursday, January 18, 2018

Unbelievable. Un-freakingbelievable. Two mornings ago, Hawaii residents and visitors woke to a postcard-perfect day, and to this emergency text alert: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

It was a false alarm, thankfully, but not totally outside the realm of possibility given heightened warbaiting between North Korea and the U.S. But the revelation of how this happened was mind-boggling: “human error” involving a lone staffer at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency hitting the wrong computer button, not once, but twice in confirmation; no dual-staffer safeguard; and no quick path to retract a false alert.

With tensions precariousness, Hawaii’s best needs to be on watch and on alert. This incident belied that, and HI-EMA has become its own worst enemy…

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Saturday’s surreal, needless chaos exposed too many incompetencies. Some galling procedural gaps have already been fixed, such as double-teaming at button-pushing drills and adding a template to HI-EMA protocols to quickly retract false alarms, which of course, is avowed to never happen again. That very vow, though, will be met with skepticism unless crucial “personnel” fixes are made to restore trust — among Hawaii’s citizens and now, an attentive global audience — that things will not be lax business as usual.