The excuses just keep on coming in the fiasco that was the false missile alert on Jan. 13. The latest one is puzzling.
The Hawaii National Guard’s top commander recently said in a hearing he told Gov. David Ige that a missile alert was a false alarm two minutes after it went out statewide. But the governor didn’t tell the public until 15 minutes later.
So, one must ask, why would that be? What took so long? In such a situation, a few minutes to craft a few lines and respond would be understandable. Fifteen minutes is not.
Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan told state lawmakers at a hearing that he called the governor at 8:09 a.m. Saturday after speaking to a supervisor at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, whose employee accidentally sent the alert.
Ige spokeswoman Cindy McMillan, according to an Associated Press story, said the governor had to track her down to prepare a message for the public. She said the governor’s communications team handles his social media.
Ige’s office relayed an emergency management agency tweet about the false alarm at 8:24 a.m. Six minutes later, a notice went up on his Facebook page.
If we have it straight, Ige had to track down his spokeswoman and this took some time. Why would he not just call her cell phone and she would answer immediately? That would take about 30 seconds. It seems a poor system when the governor can’t reach his own spokeswoman in one call.
Part of the job would seem to be to carry your cell phone wherever you go and when your boss calls, answer it. This isn’t a job where you can leave your cell phone at home on weekends. It must be with you, and you must answer it. This is critical in emergencies.
Then again, it seems a poor system that would allow one employee to send out a false missile alert across Hawaii and cause a statewide panic. It also seems a poor system there wasn’t a way to send out a correction right away.
The mistake occurred when the employee selected an actual missile alert from the drop-down menu instead of a missile alert drill message. A corrected alert was not sent to mobile devices for nearly 40 minutes because state workers had no prepared message for a false alarm.
The initial warning was sent at 8:07 a.m. and the correction reached cellphones at 8:45.
It is estimated that a missile would take about 20 minutes to reach Hawaii from North Korea. Officials say it would take about five minutes for the military to analyze the launch trajectory and notify the state, leaving only 12 to 15 minutes of warning time before impact.
Rep. Kaniela Ing, who questioned Logan about the alert mishap, said he wanted to ask the governor himself about the events. But Ige had left the hearing by the time it was Ing’s turn to ask questions.
Why would Ige leave the hearing early?
McMillan said Ige departed early because he had “various things to do,” the AP reported. In response to criticism from Ing and other lawmakers that Ige left prematurely, McMillan said: “He is the governor. He has other duties to attend to today.”
McMillan would not say what other obligations the governor had.
It seems transparency would be the best policy here. Declining to say specifically why the governor left is not the way for him to earn the public’s trust or the support of lawmakers.
A few things here worth noting: The governor couldn’t immediately reach his spokeswoman when it was learned the fake missile alert went out; Ige left the hearing early; and his staff declined to give specifics on why he had to leave.
We like Gov. Ige and believe he was doing his job well until this fake missile alert frightened thousands of people in Hawaii. That was a major miscue under his watch and hurt his reelection hopes, which was made even more challenging with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s endorsement of Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa on Wednesday. To overcome this chain of mistakes, and come across as a strong, assertive leader, Ige will have to make this his number one priority and be at the forefront of efforts to make sure the public feels safe again.