(HONOLULU) — The chairman of the Federal Communications Commissioner became the latest official to slam the Hawaiian government, calling the false alert sent to residents warning of a missile attack “absolutely unacceptable.”
Ajit Pai said in a statement Sunday that an inquiry by the agency was “well underway” and that it had already been determined that the state’s government “did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the transmission of a false alert.”
“The false emergency alert sent yesterday in Hawaii was absolutely unacceptable,” the chairman said. “It caused a wave of panic across the state — worsened by the 38-minute delay before a correction alert was issued.”
Pai added the false alerts, believed to have been caused by human error, “undermine public confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during real emergencies.”
The chairman’s statement is the latest in the continuing fallout in the wake of the accidental emergency alert. It was sent out to residents’ mobile phones and television sets at 8:07 a.m., bearing an ominous message — in all caps — and triggering widespread panic throughout the state.
“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII,” the message read. “SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
The message wasn’t officially corrected for 38 minutes.
Well before that, some Hawaii officials — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Brian Schatz among them — were assuring residents that it was a false alarm.
At 8:45 a.m. the state’s emergency management system tweeted: “No missile threat to Hawaii.”
The false emergency alert was apparently sent because “the wrong button was pushed,” Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki said in a statement Saturday.
“This system we have been told to rely upon failed and failed miserably today,” Saiki said. “I am deeply troubled by this misstep that could have had dire consequences.”
He added, “Apparently, the wrong button was pushed and it took over 30 minutes for a correction to be announced. Parents and children panicked during those 30 minutes.”
The botched alert comes as President Trump and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, are locked in a war of words about, among other things, each country’s nuclear prowess.
Gabbard, a Democrat, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday that the incident should alert the rest of the country to the threat of nuclear war.
She said her Hawaiian constituents are “are paying the price now for decades of failed leadership in this country of failure to directly negotiate” with North Korea.
And after Saturday’s missile scare the congresswoman hopes “the rest of the country…leaders in Washington pay attention to…this threat of nuclear war.”
The ballistic missile alerts come more than a month after Cold War-era sirens muffled when they were given a test run. On Dec. 1 sirens petered after the state reissued its nuclear attack warning system to warn tourists and residents of an impending attack.
Before the drill, the siren alert system had been shelved since the 1980s.
Afterward, officials were looking into why the first test of the warning system failed to be heard at some of the state’s most popular beaches.
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