No ‘Reasonable Safeguards in Place’ to Stop Hawaii Gov’t Worker From Sending out Fake Missile Alert

| JAN 16, 2018 | 8:51 PM


The head of the Federal Communications Commission has begun an investigation into why a state employee sent out a nuclear missile warning alert to cellphones in Hawaii.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says there were no “reasonable safeguards in place” to prevent it from happening again.

He told the Hawaiian newspaper that an investigation was underway, but one thing was clear.

"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 [emphasis added].

Local news outlets reported that this is the screen on which the now-reassigned employee clicked twice to send out the doomsday alert:

Twitter user Michael McWatters believed he saw an issue:

So did Jonathan Shariat:

Randy Olson piled on:

While it’s true that it took 38 minutes to send out another text message that the first alarm was false, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency knew within three minutes that the report was not true and within 13 minutes had begun getting out the word.

Based on the Star-Advertiser's information, here’s the timeline of the phony alert and the correction:

Timeline of the False Missile Emergency

  • 8:05 a.m.: Erroneous incoming missile text alert is issued.
  • 8:08 a.m.: HEMA verifies with U.S. Navy that there’s no incoming missile; police agencies are notified.
  • 8:18 a.m.: HEMA posts on Facebook and Twitter that text message is wrong.
  • 8:45 a.m.: False-alarm text alert is issued.

HEMA Administrator Vern Miyagi claimed that “the agency had to wait to make the retraction until it had authorization from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.” It's not clear where and when that request was made and how long it took to get to get an answer.

The governor said that although the state has the ability to send out the warning, the correction must come from the federal government.

The FCC chairman told the Star-Advertiser that he'd work to make sure all levels of government would work together to “ensure that corrections are issued immediately in the event that a false alert does go out.”

Good plan.