The employee who sent out a false missile alert in Hawaii earlier this month has been fired and the emergency management administrator of the state has resigned.
This follows the official report into the debacle which revealed the unidentified staff member genuinely thought Hawaii was under attack and issued it in panic.
The employee has still not been named since they sent out the phone alert at 8.07am on January 13, sparking mass panic across the state.
Emergency Management Administrator Vern Miyagi, who appeared alongside Hawaii Governor David Ige as they tried to calm the panicked state resigned from his position too.
EMA Administrator Vern Miyagi (left) and Hawaii Governor David Ige (right) apologized for the error at a press conference Saturday afternoon. Miyagi resigned on January 30 after an investigation into the alert being issued
It went uncorrected for 38 minutes until a second alert was sent out to confirm it was a false alarm.
The mistake has been under investigation by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission ever since and mystery has surrounded what exactly went wrong.
On Tuesday, the Commission revealed that the employee was taking part in a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency drill and that it was the wording of that drill confused them.
When they heard the words ‘this is not a drill’ played on a speakerphone, they believed them and afterwards, they did not hear the ‘exercise, exercise, exercise’ that followed.
Because of that, the employee pressed the button and believed they had done the right thing until the alert appeared on colleagues’ phones.
The employee who sent out the false missile alert on January 13 in Hawaii thought they were doing the right thing and believed an attack was imminent because they were confused by the wording of the drill they were taking part in. The mistake took 38 minutes to correct
With the ‘this is not a drill’ still in their mind, they did and did not know they had made a mistake until the alert appeared on colleagues’ phones.
They scrambled to tell television and radio stations that the alarm was false and they corrected it on Twitter within 12 minutes but the second phone alert took 38 minutes.
It took so long for a correction to be issued because they did not have that procedure in place.
The employee made the claim in a written statement but has not been interviewed by the FCC.
In the 38 minutes that it took for the second alert to be issued, thousands sought to seek cover. They piled into their cars to drive to a shelter and only later learned that it had been a mistake
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency in Honolulu (file image) where the alert was issued
They have not been blamed for the incident. Instead, the FCC criticized the wording of the drill which confused them.
The employee is still working for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency but no longer has access to the alert system.
Initially, Hawaii’s Governor said the employee ‘pressed the wrong button by accident’ during a shift change.
On the day the alert was sent out, other staff said the employee responsible ‘felt really bad’.
‘This guy feels bad, right. He’s not doing this on purpose – it was a mistake on his part and he feels terrible about it,’ said EMA Administrator Vern Miyagi.
Governor David Ige apologized for the confusion at the time.
‘I am sorry for the pain and confusion it caused. I, too, am extremely upset about this and am doing everything I can do to immediately improve our emergency management systems, procedures and staffing,’ he said.
The delay sparked widespread panic in Hawaii. In one unverified video, parents were seen putting their children down storm drains to take shelter
Among those caught up in the chaos was Jim Carrey who tweeted about his panic
The blunder was described as ‘extremely traumatizing’ for residents
Hawaii’s Civil Defense worked to correct the mistake by calming callers down afterwards. Above, the message they were told to give out repeatedly
Among the hundreds of thousands who were given the message were celebrities including Jim Carrey and Magic Johnson.
Carrey tweeted about his panic once the second alert was sent.
‘Under mattresses in the bathtub with my wife, baby and in laws,’ tweeted American golfer John Peterson. ‘Please lord let this bomb threat not be real.’
At the same time as the phone alert, an emergency alert was broadcast across radio and television networks.
The TV and radio alert told viewers and listeners: ‘If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows.
‘If you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter.’
Disturbing videos later emerged of parents dropping their children down storm drains to five them shelter. Those were unconfirmed.
Others however saw people running from the beaches and flocking to shelters to wait for the impact.
The second message was sent at 8.45am, said: ‘There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.’
The alert was particularly frightening given the recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests being carried out by North Korea and Kim Jong Un.
Hawaii is within range of some which have been tested.