Lawmakers, former HI-EMA official baffled by missile alert blunder

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New findings into this month’s false ballistic missile alert have left some state lawmakers and even Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s former vice director baffled.

“It is shocking. It is astounding. It’s very difficult for me to grasp how that could happen,” said Ed Teixeira, who was HI-EMA’s vice director before stepping down in 2011.

Teixera says the drill performed the day it went wrong is standard operating procedure for most emergency agencies.

“We always receive a test or an exercise with the words ‘exercise, exercise, exercise,’ and you end that message by ‘exercise, exercise, exercise,'” he explained.

About a week after the mistake, state lawmakers held a briefing with Gov. David Ige and HI-EMA to find out what went wrong.

But the revelation that the employee did not “mistakenly press the wrong button” wasn’t shared.

“Why didn’t they say those things earlier? That’s not very transparent. That’s not, kind of like, ‘it’s never going to happen again.’ Because if you can’t trust the people telling you the facts, you’re not going to believe the facts,” said Rep. Gene Ward.

Rep. Gregg Takayama says learning that the employee confused drills for real events at least twice before is troubling.

“Even though this employee had a history of poor performance, nothing was really done about it,” Takayama said.

The ballistic missile threat false alarm alert was a mistake noticed around the world. It’s a hard pill to swallow for state officials who say all eyes are on Hawaii.

Going forward, there is no room for error.

“(We need to) figure out how to be better prepared should an emergency occur, and number two, we need outside groups, local groups, to look at the corrective actions and see if they’re enough,” said Takayama.

“We were kind of the laughing stock, and we still are until we straighten the record, and these are the opportunities to straighten the record,” added Ward.

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