Saturday’s missile scare has been described as an epic failure.
It has been called inexcusable.
It has been referred to as something that caused panic.
And it has been said those responsible must be held accountable.
One can’t dismiss the severity of what happened. Some people were terrified on what should have been your routine sunny, Saturday morning in Hawaii. We are told by state officials the false warning was sent during a shift change at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency when someone doing a routine test hit the live alert button.
That employee has been reassigned to a job without access to the warning system amid an internal investigation, we are told. No other personnel changes have been made, we are told.
Officials have done their best to assure residents there would be no repeat false alarms. The agency changed things to require that two people send an alert and made it easier to cancel a false alarm — a process that took nearly 40 minutes.
Wow. That’s a relief. We won’t get anymore false warnings that a missile is headed our way.
One must ask, how was it even possible in the first place for one person to push a button that sends such a notice, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” to a million people around Hawaii?
And, one must also ask, how it is possible it took nearly 40 minutes to cancel that false alarm and let people know the world as they know it was not about to end?
As Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. told TGI in an interview Saturday, that this alert went out was bad. That it took so long to correct was worse.
One would think, certainly, a major overhaul is needed. Whoever is in charge of a process that allowed this to happen should be repriminded, even dismissed.
One press release said initial reports from the Federal Communications Commission suggest the state did not have “reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the transmission of the false alert.”
So we ask, whose fault is that?
As Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz said Sunday, “There is no excuse for yesterday’s false alarm and the failure to quickly correct it. It terrified residents and visitors, and it undermined our ability to notify the public in a real emergency.”
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Sunday put it even more bluntly:
“This false missile alert that went out yesterday was a colossal failure that caused a nightmare. Those responsible must be held accountable. There must be state and federal investigations into what occurred, and immediate corrective action taken to ensure the people in Hawaii never have to go through anything like this again.”
People feared nuclear war was finally happening. It was about to be upon them. And with the tension, insults, threats and tough talk going on between the U.S. and North Korea, there was every reason to believe this could be real.
It wasn’t, but for 38 minutes, many didn’t know that. There were tears, anger, panic, despair. People called loved ones with what they thought could be their final words. Others rushed to be with family. Drivers pulled off the road and bunkered down. Some prayed. Some accepted that this might be it.
How it could take 38 minutes to send out a correction, let people know everything was OK, is beyond understanding.
While we like and appreciate the efforts of Gov. David Ige, the fact is, this happened on his watch. And he, above all, must be held accountable and answer to the people.
In the governor’s defense, here is a statement he sent out Sunday:
On Saturday, Hawaii’s residents and visitors experienced an unfortunate situation that has never happened before and will never happen again — a false alert issued by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency that a ballistic missile was on its way to the Hawaiian Islands.
On behalf of the State of Hawaii, I deeply apologize for this false alert that created stress, anxiety and fear of a crisis in our residents and guests.
I can personally assure each and every resident and visitor that steps have already been taken by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to ensure that a situation of this type never happens again.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is committed to protecting the people of Hawaii, and over the past year it has been taking responsible measures to prepare for the highly unlikely event of a missile attack. As a state government, we must learn from this unfortunate error and continue to prepare for any safety threat to Hawaii’s residents and visitors — whether it is a man-made threat or a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tsunami.
In the next few days, I will continue meeting with our emergency preparedness team and personally talking with families, individuals and leaders from around our state to ensure we reach every household. We must also do what we can to demand peace and a de-escalation of tensions with North Korea.
Again, on behalf of the State of Hawaii, I apologize.
We appreciate the governor’s apology. We’re glad he recognizes this did create stress, anxiety and fear. He should be committed to protecting the people of Hawaii. Something like this can never happen again. It should not have happened in the first place.
It is far more than an “unfortunate error.” This is a miscue of monumental consequences. The fact that the process was in place that allowed this to happen is beyond bad. It’s terrible. Someone was sleeping at the wheel, and that wheel was guiding an entire state. It is careless. It is inexcusable and it is unacceptable. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has great lengths to go to restore the public’s trust. The governor has to convince people this blunder is not indicative of his administration’s abilities.
This is one time a simple “sorry” and reference to an “unfortunate error” just doesn’t get it done. It’s not enough. What happened Saturday demands consequences. It demands actions. It demands answers. We’re waiting.