Ballistic missile warning despatched in error by Hawaii authorities

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An emergency alert sent on Saturday to Hawaii’s residents warning of an imminent ballistic missile attack was transmitted mistakenly by state authorities due to human error, Hawaii’s governor and emergency management chief said.

State officials and the U.S. military’s Pacific Command confirmed that there was no actual threat to the state.

Governor David Ige, a Democrat, said in comments aired on CNN, “I was awakened by the alert like everyone else here in the state of Hawaii. It was unfortunate and regrettable. We will be looking at how we can improve the procedures so it doesn’t happen again.”

The alert, sent to mobile phones and aired on television and radio, was issued amid high international tensions over North Korea’s development of ballistic nuclear weapons.

Ige, who apologized for the incident, said the alert was sent out by mistake during a shift change at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. He said such shift changes occur three times a day every day of the year.

Vern Miyagi, the agency’s administrator, said in comments also aired on CNN, “It was an inadvertent mistake. The change of shift is about three people. That should have been caught. … It should not have happened.”

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced it was initiating a full investigation. The FCC has jurisdiction over the emergency alert system. Earlier this week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the agency would vote at its January meeting to enhance the effectiveness of wireless emergency alerts, which have been in place since 2012.


Miyagi said there was a “check list” that should have been followed. He said, “I think we have the process in place. It’s an matter of executing the process. I think it’s human error.”

“This will not happen again,” he added.

Media reports said it took 38 minutes for the initial alert to be corrected.

After the alert was sent, the Emergency Management Agency later said on Twitter: “NO missile threat to Hawaii.”

A screen capture from a Twitter account showing a missile warning for Hawaii, U.S., January 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Courtesy of TWITTER @valeriebeyers/via REUTERS

A spokeswoman for U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard said the congresswoman checked with the state agency that issued the alert and was told it was sent in error.


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