Hawaii false missile alert sender says he thought drill was real

The man who says he sent out the false ballistic missile alert last month in Hawaii that caused more than a half hour...

Posted: Feb 4, 2018 4:54 AM
Updated: Feb 4, 2018 4:54 AM

The man who says he sent out the false ballistic missile alert last month in Hawaii that caused more than a half hour of panic said Friday he thinks he is being treated unfairly, and he was positive at the time the drill was real.

The man, who said he doesn't want to be identified for security reasons, was fired by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) earlier this week. He told CNN on Friday that he feels terrible about what happened, but he did what he was trained to do.

He hopes that by speaking out, he can help prevent a similar incident from happening in the 49 other states.

The drill began on the morning of January 13 as the man, who had been with the agency for 11 1/2 years, according to his lawyer, and his coworkers were just logging on to their computers at the beginning of their shifts, he said.

"I thought 100 percent it was real," said the former employee, who said he had been involved in about five prior missile drills.

The man said this time he never heard "exercise, exercise, exercise" over the secure phone for emergencies because someone picked up the handset before transferring it to a speaker.

The man said he heard the words "This is not a drill" in a voice he did not recognize and reacted as he was trained to do. He went on his computer and used a pull-down menu to send out the alert.

Bruce Oliveira, who conducted an HI-EMA investigation into the incident, said earlier this week that five other employees in the room heard the guidance that it was an exercise.

Oliveira, who retired from the Hawaii National Guard as brigadier general, also told reporters, "When it became apparent that the real-world alert was issued," the employee who sent it out "seemed confused, he froze and another employee had to take over his responsibilities."

The employee "had a history of confusing drill and real-world events," Oliveira said.

The man disagreed with the state's version of what happened and said there was no one in the room that said it was a drill.

The man blamed the incident on a variety of factors -- it was shift change, he and others lacked training, the drill was unannounced -- for the alert that wasn't corrected for 38 minutes.

He also said protocols for the drills he was involved in changed each time.

"The (state and the Federal Communications Commission) have false information in the reports," the man said.

Attorney Michael Green said his client was a scapegoat.

"No one was ready for this day," Green said by phone. "They were not ready and they were not programmed to do what they were supposed to do when this happened."

Green and his client pointed out there was no safeguard measures to withdraw the alert. Employees had to call in people from the IT department to get it canceled. The former employee said the whole thing was a failure in planning from top to bottom.

Report finds problems

An internal investigation found "that insufficient management controls, poor computer software design and human factors contributed" to the alert and a delayed correction message.

Maj. Gen. Joe Logan, Hawaii's state adjutant general, said Vern Miyagi, administrator of the state emergency management agency, resigned Tuesday.

Miyagi accepted full responsibility for the incident and the actions of his employees, Logan said. Another employee was suspended without pay and a third employee resigned before any disciplinary action was taken, Logan said.

Logan said he appointed Brig. Gen. Moses Kaoiwi, director of joint staff with the Hawaii National Guard, as interim agency administrator.

Recommendations are released

Oliveira made two dozen recommendations, including eliminating practice drills during a shift change, stronger confirmation prompts for those sending an alert, and improved training.

The former employee told CNN that the task he was assigned to do in sending the alert will now be a two-person job.

But he said that he thinks the military is better equipped for alerts. Before November, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency's alerts were predominantly were about hurricanes, possible tsunamis and other Earth-driven events.

FCC report

Oliveira's findings echoed an Federal Communications Commission report issued Tuesday.

The FCC report said the emergency management worker thought the state was under attack and sent out the warning that sent residents into panic.

"Many things went wrong in Hawaii," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a published statement. "I don't say this for the purpose of casting blame or disparaging Hawaiian officials. We simply need to identify the problems in order to fix them -- not just in Hawaii, but anywhere else where they may exist."

The worker would not speak to FCC officials in person and submitted the account of the incident in writing, the report noted. The man told CNN that it was three days before someone talked to him about the incident and that was when a supervisor asked him to write a statement.

He said he then missed more than a week of work due to stress-related illness after learning death threats had been made against him to agency officials. He said he saw a doctor for sleep issues. He also had his hearing tested (no issues there, he said).

Green said his client got stuck in the middle of an unprepared department and urged others to check with their state agencies to make sure they have a proper process in place.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 97638

Reported Deaths: 2067
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin27372932
Ramsey11088322
Dakota7635126
Anoka6238137
Stearns407724
Washington388355
Scott262533
Olmsted251928
Nobles197716
Blue Earth17266
Wright16957
St. Louis165941
Carver14377
Clay141741
Rice13438
Mower13425
Sherburne116914
Kandiyohi10552
Winona91318
Lyon7224
Waseca6898
Benton5603
Crow Wing55518
Steele5552
Freeborn5464
Nicollet54517
Watonwan5304
Chisago5131
Todd5042
McLeod5012
Le Sueur4744
Otter Tail4624
Beltrami4505
Martin43010
Goodhue3829
Itasca34715
Pine3430
Douglas3372
Polk3224
Isanti3151
Becker2812
Carlton2761
Morrison2682
Dodge2570
Pipestone23210
Cottonwood2280
Chippewa2231
Meeker2132
Wabasha2020
Sibley1993
Brown1962
Yellow Medicine1902
Cass1844
Redwood1773
Rock1760
Murray1722
Mille Lacs1693
Renville1578
Unassigned15452
Jackson1491
Faribault1470
Swift1441
Fillmore1330
Houston1280
Kanabec1278
Roseau1250
Koochiching1233
Pennington1201
Hubbard1171
Lincoln1160
Stevens1041
Pope990
Aitkin831
Big Stone830
Wadena720
Wilkin703
Lac qui Parle651
Grant634
Lake600
Norman540
Marshall531
Mahnomen491
Red Lake451
Traverse340
Clearwater280
Lake of the Woods231
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 86860

Reported Deaths: 1315
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk16010262
Woodbury555467
Johnson517027
Black Hawk450990
Linn4101113
Story346217
Dubuque333241
Scott304528
Dallas280738
Pottawattamie215939
Buena Vista199912
Marshall179134
Sioux16803
Wapello134057
Webster128014
Plymouth116121
Clinton113021
Muscatine112155
Crawford11005
Cerro Gordo105921
Warren9666
Jasper86432
Des Moines8008
Marion7697
Henry7554
Tama73932
Carroll6855
Lee6437
Wright5961
Dickinson5306
Boone5178
Bremer5027
Washington47211
Louisa43115
Delaware4233
Mahaska41519
Floyd3543
Jackson3523
Franklin35118
Lyon3514
Winneshiek3406
Clay3344
Hamilton3323
Benton3281
Winnebago31713
Hardin3071
Poweshiek3078
Buchanan2861
Jones2843
Kossuth2800
Butler2752
Emmet27010
Clarke2683
Shelby2681
Allamakee2666
Chickasaw2661
Sac2650
Clayton2633
Cherokee2552
Cedar2521
Guthrie2527
Harrison2523
Fayette2312
Madison2272
Grundy2243
Iowa2161
Palo Alto2050
Hancock1952
Howard1927
Humboldt1913
Mitchell1910
Calhoun1873
Mills1831
Page1710
Cass1692
Osceola1690
Pocahontas1652
Monona1601
Monroe16011
Lucas1566
Appanoose1423
Jefferson1391
Union1383
Taylor1321
Davis1274
Ida1261
Fremont1210
Van Buren1151
Keokuk1141
Worth1090
Greene1030
Montgomery975
Audubon871
Wayne872
Adair721
Decatur670
Ringgold532
Adams330
Unassigned140
Rochester
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
Mason City
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 53°
Albert Lea
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 54°
Austin
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 54°
Charles City
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: °
Winds pick up for Wednesday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events