UPDATE 1/14/2017 9:35 a.m. PT: FCC chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement Sunday, calling the false emergency alert sent yesterday in Hawaii was “absolutely unacceptable.”
“It caused a wave of panic across the state–worsened by the 38-minute delay before a correction alert was issued. Moreover, false alerts undermine public confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during real emergencies,” Chairman Pai said.
“The FCC’s investigation into this incident is well underway. We have been in close contact with federal and state officials, gathering the facts about how this false alert was issued. Based on the information we have collected so far, it appears that the government of Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the transmission of a false alert.”
He concluded, “Moving forward, we will focus on what steps need to be taken to prevent a similar incident from happening again. Federal, state, and local officials throughout the country need to work together to identify any vulnerabilities to false alerts and do what’s necessary to fix them. We also must ensure that corrections are issued immediately in the event that a false alert does go out.”
PREVIOUSLY: The “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII” emergency alert that rocked the islands early Saturday morning was caused because someone “pushed the wrong button” during an employee shift change.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige told CNN this morning, “It was a procedure that occurs at the change of shift where they go through to make sure that system is working and employee pushed the wrong button.”
Hawaii Gov. Ige says the false alarm happened after an employee "pushed the wrong button" during a "procedure that occurs at the change of shift" pic.twitter.com/9wVKIFqBEN
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) January 13, 2018
“A change in shift happens three times a day, seven days a week, and 365 days out of the year,” Ige continued. Although, “for the most part, it occurs flawlessly,” he added that he is meeting today with top officials of the State Department of Defense and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to determine what caused this morning’s false alarm “and to prevent it from happening again.”
"We definitely need to improve our procedures," says Hawaii Gov. David Ige, telling reporters that false ballistic missile alert was caused by someone pushing "the wrong button" https://t.co/NCVtyRxlOa https://t.co/7PrEk68pXD
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 13, 2018
Meanwhile, the U.S. Pacific Command has assured the public that they have “detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii. Earlier message was sent in error and was a false alarm.”
In addition, FCC chairman Ajit Pai, says they are launching a full investigation into the false emergency alert.
The chaos began Saturday morning when confused residents received an alert shortly after 8 a.m. local time that read, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Hawaii is considered a vulnerable target because it’s on the flight path between the U.S. mainland and North Korea, which has been conducting intercontinental ballistic missile tests by Kim Jong-un.
Hawaii News Now reported that the state flew into panic, with “people scrambling for shelters and their cars, and online for additional news.”
“It’s totally unacceptable,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. “There was anxiety across the state and it was terrifying. There was a lot of unnecessary pain and anxiety. It’s important to have accountability at the state level and the emergency management level in terms of what exactly what went wrong.”