POLITICS
01/16/2018 07:01 am ET

Hawaii Governor Assigns General To Review Botched Missile Alert

The probe will provide a report for improving preparedness within 60 days.

HONOLULU ― Hawaii Gov. David Ige assigned a National Guard general to head a full review of the false missile alert that caused widespread panic throughout the island state.

Ige, appearing on network television Monday night, announced that National Guard Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara would conduct a “thorough review” of the alert mistakenly sent by an Emergency Management Agency employee during a routine drill on Saturday morning.

Hara, the state’s deputy adjutant general, is also tasked with providing Hawaii residents, government officials and businesses clear instructions on what to do, where to go and how to prepare in the case of a real incoming missile threat.

“Children going down manholes, stores closing their doors to those seeking shelter, and cars driving at high speeds cannot happen again,” Ige said. “We will do a better job of educating the public.”

Saturday’s alert of an incoming ballistic missile sent residents into a state of shock and fear. Many struggled to find reliable information, but the state website temporarily shut down and police lines were flooded.

Some residents went to extreme measures to seek shelter. At least one man was seen putting his young children into a manhole, as seen in a now-viral video.

Ige on Monday night sought to restore trust.

“Let me be clear: False notifications and waiting for what felt like an eternity will not happen again,” said the governor. “You have my promise on this.”

Although Ige and Vern Miyagi, the administrator for Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, took responsibility for the botched alert, it was an emergency management employee who pushed the wrong button and triggered the false notification.

That employee, who has not been publicly identified, was temporarily reassigned to a job that does not provide access to the state warning system, officials said.

Still, the agency continues to receive death threats via anonymous calls, emergency management spokesman Richard Rapoza told USA Today.

In his address, Ige denounced the threats toward Hawaii’s emergency officials and maintained that the employee isn’t the only one at fault.

“I will not stand for scapegoating of our emergency management personnel when a number of unfortunate errors caused this event,” Ige said. “Death threats are completely unacceptable and not how we do things here.”

“I am ultimately responsible,” the governor added. “I wish I could say there was a simple reason for why it took so long to get the correction to the false alert out.”

Ige said emergency management staff “were hamstrung by a number of factors” that made it difficult to broadcast a “timely cancellation out to cellphones.”

He also acknowledged that the false alert highlights weaknesses in Hawaii’s alert system.

“It is clear what happened Saturday revealed the need for additional safeguards and improvements to our state system,” Ige said.

Hara’s review will provide the state with an initial action plan in 30 days, and a formal report for improving the state’s preparedness within 60 days.

The Emergency Management Agency has launched its own internal investigation, headed by the agency’s executive officer Toby Clairmont, according to the Honolulu-Star Advertiser.

On Sunday, Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai called the false missile alert “unacceptable” and criticized Hawaii officials for the time it took to correct the mistake.

“It caused a wave of panic across the state ― worsened by the 38-minute delay before a correction alert was issued,” Pai said in a statement. “Moreover, false alerts undermine public confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during real emergencies.”

The FCC’s own probe, launched Saturday, revealed that local officials were unprepared to deal with a mistake, Pai said.

“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,” Pai said.

President Donald Trump made his first public remarks on the incident Sunday night while on his way to a dinner at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.

“Well, that was a state thing. But we’re going to now get involved with them. I love that they took responsibility,” Trump told reporters.

When asked if the White House would ensure that the mistake doesn’t happen again, Trump said, “Well, we hope it won’t happen again. But part of it is that people are on edge, but maybe, eventually, we’ll solve the problem so they won’t have to be so on edge.”

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