HI-EMA makes corrections 3 years after false missile alert while DOD defends Hawaii

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — It was an event where most Hawaii residents remember where they were. The state was jolted by the threat of an incoming ballistic missile on the morning of Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, only to find out that it was a false alarm.

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The Federal Communications Commission determined that the Hawaii Emergency Management (HI-EMA) worker who triggered the panic believed Hawaii was actually under attack. On Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2021, HI-EMA told KHON2 that procedures have been changed in order to prevent a false-alarm from happening again.

“When activating alerts, instituting a two-person activation and verification system for all testing exercises for all hazard scenarios,” said former Civil Defense vice director Ed Teixeira. “A pre-scripted correction statement can also be triggered within seconds of an error should the need arise.”

Teixeira says, those two procedural changes were quick to come to mind.

“A pre-scripted message that may correct something that has gone awry or wrong is the way to go, that’s a no-brainer,” he said.

The second change came from a phone call that Teixeira had soon after the false missile alert went out across the state.

“I was called within the first hour of that incident by a very notable politician asking me what I had thought and that person had talked to the governor and person in charge and wasn’t feeling very comfortable and asked me for my opinion,” Teixeira said.

His first reaction was that the system should not be controlled by a single individual.

“If you’re going to have an exercise or procedure of this type, calling for an immediate response from the public you need to have at least a two-person rule. Meaning it’s not just one person sitting behind a computer screen, and a touch screen at that,” Teixeira said.

Tensions between the United States and North Korea seem to have calmed since then but the U.S. Department of Defense is staying prepared.

The USS John Finn successfully shot down test version of an intercontinental ballistic missile in November, 2020, northeast of Hawaii as part of a “defense of Hawaii” scenario mandated by Congress.

“Hats off to the MDA the Missile Defense Agency for just sticking to their objectives and goals and delivering the results in the Pacific to show that we have the systems available to defend Hawaii,” Teixeira said.

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