Timeline of the Hawaii false missile alert shows how drill went wrong
Shortly after 8 a.m. local time on January 13, something went terribly awry in Hawaii.
A state emergency management worker pushed the wrong button in the emergency operation center, sending out a false warning during a ballistic missile alert drill. The employee, who has since been fired, thought the attack was real when he sent out the warning, according to a Federal Communications Commission report.
“When it became apparent that the real-world alert was issued,” the employee “seemed confused, he froze and another employee had to take over his responsibilities,” retired Brig. Gen. Bruce Oliveira, who led the state investigation, told reporters on Tuesday.
The following timeline is included in Oliveira’s report, which includes two dozen recommendations for preventing another false alert:
8 a.m. — In preparation for the ballistic missile alert response drill, Employee 4 and Employee 2 discuss their plan to conduct a ballistic missile alert drill at the end of their shift. Employee 4 prepares a recording of US Pacific Command ballistic missile alert notification script from the ballistic missile alert checklist manual. Employee 4 discusses leaving the state warning point (or control) area while Employee 2 tells the day shift about the previous shift change drill.
8:03 a.m. — The incoming day shift enters the room. Employee 4 meets with Employee 5 and discusses the ballistic missile alert drill.
8:06 a.m. — Employee 4 initiates the ballistic missile alert drill using a phone outside the room calling into the secure telephone equipment. Employee 2 activates the phone speaker. At this time, it is announced loud and clear, “EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE,” and then concludes with “EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE,” which is a normal procedure for all drills, including this ballistic missile alert drill. Both day and night shift begin executing the ballistic missile alert checklist. Employee 2 records the time of the simulated ballistic missile impact. Employee 3 starts the countdown timer. Employee 2 simulates activating the ballistic missile alert wail tone siren and verbally indicates completion of that action.
8:06 a.m. — Employee 1 logs into the system and waits for Employee 3’s announcement of the simulated siren warning activation. Following the simulated siren announcement, Employee 1 erroneously activates the real-world alert code
— There is a drop-down menu that includes:
— Test missile alert (this sends message internally to agency)
— Missile alert (this sends message to public)
Missile alert is selected. The computer asks to confirm choice. Employee 1 clicks yes.
8:07 a.m. — Personnel in the state warning point begin receiving alert messages on their personal smartphones.
8:07 a.m. — Employee 13 calls the state warning point and receives confirmation of the “false alert.”
8:08 a.m. — Employee 6 calls the state warning point and receives confirmation of the “false alert.”
8:08 a.m. — The adjutant general calls the state warning point and is notified of “false alert.”
8:09 a.m. — Employee 6 notifies Employee 11 of “false alert” confirmation.
8:09 a.m. — Employee 4 uses the Hawaii Warning System broadcast to the counties: “Attention all stations — This is the state warning point — There is no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii — this is a drill — I repeat, this is a drill.” Employee 4 then conducts roll call to confirm each county’s acknowledgment of the false alert.
8:10 a.m. — Honolulu Police Department calls state warning point and is notified of the false alert by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
8:11 a.m. — State siren vendor calls and is notified that it was a false alert.
8:12 a.m. — Employee 5 directs Employee 1 to send out the cancel message on the system. Employee 5 states that Employee 1 sits there and doesn’t respond. Employee 3 returns to the state warning point from starting the time clock and sees Employee 4 and Employee 10 repeatedly get on the Hawaii Warning System, letting counties know that it is just a drill. Employee 2 is on the phone with Employee 6 briefing them on the situation. Employee 5 is alerting the command staff. Employee 1 is sitting and seems confused. Employee 3 takes control of Employees 1’s mouse and sends the cancel message. At no point does Employee 1 assist in the process.
8:13 a.m. — The state warning point issues a cancellation of the civil danger warning message. This prevents the initial event from being rebroadcast to phones that may not have received it yet (i.e. If phone was not on at 8:07, someone was out of range of cell coverage, passengers on a flight). But does not send out an all clear message.
8:13 a.m. — Employee 10 notifies county emergency management via the Hawaii Warning System.
8:13 a.m. — Employee 6 posts “there is no threat to Hawaii” and that it is a “false alert” on personal Facebook page.
8:14 a.m. — Civil danger warning message and “cancel” received in state warning point e-mail box.
8:15 a.m. — State warning point continues to receive calls from the public about emergency alert system message.
8:15 a.m. — Employee 11 notifies an engineer of the “false alert.”
8:17 a.m. — State warning point receives message from Employee 11 about alert message. Employee 11 sends a message to all Hawaii Emergency Management Agency staff that there is no threat.
8:18 a.m. — Hawaii Department of Defense notifies Hawaii News Now.
8:18 a.m. — Hawaii Emergency Management Agency public relations officer contacts Employee 6. Employee 6 notifies them that it was a “false alert.” Suggests to start posting on social media.
8:19 a.m. — From sources within Hawaii Department of Defense, Hawaii News Now alerts the public that the ballistic missile alert message was mistakenly sent. The following message, from the Hawaii News Now app, is pushed to mobile devices: “There is no current ballistic missile threat. The emergency alert warning has been sounded by mistake, according to Civil Defense.”
8:19 a.m. — State information technology contractor calls Employee 6 and is notified of no threat.
8:19 a.m. — The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency official Twitter account sends out a tweet that says there is “No missile threat to Hawaii.” The message is posted at 8:20 a.m. and is only distributed to those who follow @Hawaii_EMA on Twitter.
8:20 a.m. — Hawaii Department of Defense notifies station KHON.
8:22 a.m. — Hawaii Department of Defense notifies station KITV.
8:22 a.m. — Employee 6 calls Employee 11 and provides a status update and states he will call county emergency management agencies.
8:23 a.m. — The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency posts to its official Facebook page. “No missile threat to Hawaii. False Alert. We’re currently investigating.”
8:24 a.m. — Employee 6 notifies Hawaii County Civil Defense of false alert.
8:25 a.m. — Employee 6 notifies Maui County Emergency Management of false alert.
8:25 a.m. — Olelo Television calls Employee 6, who notifies Olelo that it was a false alert.
8:26 a.m. — Employee 6 tries calling Federal Emergency Management Agency. Does not get through.
8:27 a.m. — Employee 6 calls Employee 11 to discuss options. Another civil danger warning is not advisable. Decides on a civil emergency message.
8:30 a.m. — Employee 6 calls FEMA for advice and FEMA agrees that criteria and guidelines of the event code to send a civil emergency message are met.
8:31 a.m. — Employee 6 informs Employee 11 that they are going to send the civil emergency message.
8:32 a.m. — State Department of Accounting and General Services calls Employee 6 and is notified of the false alert.
8:32 a.m. — Employee 6 remotely logs into the alert system via an encrypted connection, and a civil emergency message is drafted and sent.
8:45 a.m. — Civil emergency message false alert message posted. The following action is executed by the emergency alert system:
— Emergency alert system message over local TV/radio audio broadcast and television crawler banner: “False Alert. There is no missile threat to Hawaii.” “False Alert. There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. False Alert”
Wireless emergency alert message is sent to cell phones: “False Alert. There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii.”