The employee at the center of the missile scare in Hawaii has been fired by officials with the state’s Emergency Management Agency, The Washington Post reports.
HI-EMA fired the unnamed man, who had clicked through a warning on a computer to issue the alert on the morning of Jan. 13, after a preliminary report by the FCC found that he truly believed a drill with incorrect wording was actually an incoming missile.
According to the report, “HI-EMA’s midnight shift supervisor (began) a no-notice ballistic missile defense drill at a shift change by placing a call, pretending to be U.S. Pacific Command, to the day shift warning officers” at roughly 8:05 a.m. that morning.
“The midnight shift supervisor plays a recording over the phone that properly includes the drill language “EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE,” but also erroneously contains the text of an EAS message for a live ballistic missile alert, including the language, ‘THIS IS NOT A DRILL.’ The recording does not follow the script contained in HI-EMA’s standard operating procedure for this drill.”
The employee says he heard the part that said “this is not a drill,” but did not hear the language delineating it as an exercise.
However, a report from state officials said that the employee, who has previously mistaken drills for actual warnings on two separate occasions, had been a “source of concern” for more than ten years due to job performance issues, according to Honolulu Civil Beat. The Associated Press also noted that “other members of the team say they were not comfortable working with him in any role.”
The alert, which was sent out via text message, couldn’t be recalled until 38 minutes later. Gov. David Ige was also unable to issue a statement via Twitter, apparently because he forgot his password.
HI-EMA chief Vern T. Miyagi also resigned over the incident.
“I feel very badly from what’s happened,” the employee told NBC Nightly News in an interview.
Do you think this is justice for the Hawaii missile alert employee?
“The panic, the stress people felt, all the hurt and pain. I felt that myself.”
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the event stoked anger many Hawaiians feel over the relative job safety state employees enjoy.
In a piece for The Washington Post, unsparingly titled “The missile employee messed up because Hawaii rewards incompetence,” Gene Park — who once worked for the state — belittled Hawaii’s ineffective bureaucracy.
“I worked as a Hawaii state employee for a short time, serving as spokesman for a division of the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and then spent more than seven years dealing with the government as a journalist,” Park wrote.
“Anyone who knows how Honolulu functions can’t have been surprised by the FCC’s revelations. The sad part is that the worker’s ineptitude and the chaos he caused have exposed to the world old, ugly tropes about Hawaiian accountability and competence that residents would love nothing more than to shake off.”
Part of the issue, Park says, is that “Hawaii is a small community with a strong local whisper network (coconut wireless, as it is called), but the community there dislikes shaming.
“Despite the fact that his salary is paid by tax dollars and that he led hundreds of thousands of people to believe they would imminently die, the man behind the phone alert remains unaccountable to the public.”
Perhaps not publicly, but he’s lost his sinecure in the Hawaiian state system. Granted, that probably should have happened a long time ago, but at least its a minor sliver of justice.
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