The FCC says the person who sent the false alert mistook a drill for a real warning about a missile threat and there was no sign-off from a supervisor. That was compounded by the fact that the state has no standardized system for correcting such a mistake.
The FCC said today that human error and inadequate safeguards are to blame for a missile alert that was sent mistakenly in Hawaii.
The FCC said Tuesday that the individual who sent the false alert refused to talk to the agency, but provided a written statement. The FCC says Hawaii has been testing alert capabilities, and he mistook a drill for a real warning about a missile threat. He responded by sending the alert. There was no sign-off from a supervisor.
The alert was sent to cellphones, TV and radio stations in Hawaii earlier this month, resulting in panic among Hawaiians.
The FCC says that once the false alert was sent, it took 38 minutes to correct it because Hawaii did not have a standardized system for sending such corrections.
The commission’s investigation by its Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau said that “there were no procedures in place to prevent a single person from mistakenly sending a missile alert to the State of Hawaii. While such an alert addressed a matter of the utmost gravity, there was no requirement in place for a warning officer to double check with a colleague or get signoff from a supervisor before sending such an alert.
“Additionally, the State of Hawaii appears to have been conducting an atypical number of no-notice drills, which heightened the potential for an error to occur.” The FCC added that its investigation “so far has revealed that while other emergency management agencies use no-notice drills under special circumstances, their common practice is to schedule drills in advance for a set date and time.
It is also troubling that Hawaii’s alert origination software did not differentiate between the testing environment and the live alert production environment.”
The commission said it was “pleased that the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has already taken steps to help ensure that an incident like this never happens again. It has created a new policy that supervisors must receive advance notice of all future drills. It will require two credentialed warning officers to sign in and validate the transmission of every alert and test. It has created a false alert correction template for Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert system messages so that warning officers are more readily prepared to correct a false alert, should one ever occur again. It has requested that its alert origination software vendor integrate improvements into the next iteration of its software to more clearly delineate the test environment from the live production environment, helping to safeguard against false alerts. And finally, it has stopped all future ballistic missile defense drills pending the conclusion of its own investigation.”
However, it added, “there is more work to be done. The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will continue its investigation and issue a final report, including recommended measures to safeguard against false alerts and to mitigate their harmful effects if they do occur. And once we have developed these recommended measures, we intend to partner with FEMA to engage in stakeholder outreach and encourage implementation of these best practices.”