The employee who accidentally triggered an alert of a nuclear ballistic threat across Hawaii on Saturday has been temporarily reassigned, state officials said Sunday.

The employee, who officials say was using a computer program during a shift change drill and clicked through a warning prompt, has been reassigned within the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said agency spokesman Richard Rapoza.

The organization will make a long-term decision on his status after a review, Rapoza said.

Civil Defense head Verne Miyagi apologizes to our community/public via media during press conference held at the Diamond Head Emergency Operations Center.
Vern Miyagi, head of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, right, and Gov. David Ige discuss the false alarm Saturday. Ige apologized on behalf of the state again Sunday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

At a press conference Saturday, Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi said that the employee felt terrible about the mistake.

“It’s a human error. There is a screen that says, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ That’s already in place,” Miyagi explained Saturday. “That thing was pushed anyway.”

Shortly after  8 a.m. Saturday, thousands of residents received the following message to their cell phones:


The error spread panic and fear across the islands until emergency officials finally pushed out a text alert correcting the message 38 minutes later.

It took 38 minutes after the initial text warning before a follow-up text announcing the false alarm. Screen shot

HEMA suspended the drill after Saturday’s accident, and Miyagi said any subsequent drills will include two employees instead of just one.

Meanwhile,  Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement Sunday that based on what that the federal agency has found out 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.”

Gov. David Ige repeated his apology on behalf of the state government for the mishap in a statement Sunday.

“As a state government, we must learn from this unfortunate error and continue to prepare for any safety threat to Hawaii’s residents and visitors – whether it is a man-made threat or a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tsunami,” Ige’s statement read.

President Donald Trump, who did not tweet about the incident Saturday, weighed in Sunday, according to Kelly O’Donnell of NBC News:

Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service. That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help keep our journalism free for all readers. And if you’re able, consider a sustaining monthly gift to support our work all year-round.



About the Author