On January 13, we covered the reports that a false alert about a ballistic missile headed toward Hawaii was sent to cellphones there, urging people to seek immediate shelter.

There were many troubling consequences as a result of that alert being issued, including parents placing their small children in sewers with potentially hazardous conditions.

The alert may have also triggered a heart attack for Hawaiian resident Sean Shields, according to his girlfriend, Brenda Reichel.

“This whole thing just took him over the edge. There’s no doubt. The stress brought on a heart attack. What they did was so harmful,” Reichel told the newspaper, adding she thought he flatlined for five to 10 minutes.

“The doctors even agreed that the stress from the event did this. They told him he died. They told me he wasn’t breathing and he had no heartbeat. He had no heart problems ever,” the woman added, but noted that Shields is now “talking, he’s lucid and cognitive.”

The worker was originally reassigned while the Federal Communication Commission and the state Emergency Management Agency did an internal investigation. The results were troubling, and the employee has now been terminated.

A Federal Communications Commission report revealed Tuesday that the worker who pushed out the alert thought an actual attack was imminent. It was the first indication the alert was purposely sent, adding another level of confusion to the misstep that created panic at a time of fear over the threat of North Korean missiles.

The worker believed there was a real attack because of a mistake in how the drill was initiated during a shift change, according to the FCC, which regulates the nation’s airwaves and sets standards for such emergency alerts. The employee said he didn’t hear the word “exercise” repeated six times, though others clearly heard it.

There was no requirement to double-check with a colleague or get a supervisor’s approval before sending the warning statewide, the federal agency said.

“There were no procedures in place to prevent a single person from mistakenly sending a missile alert” in Hawaii, said James Wiley, a cybersecurity and communications reliability staffer at the FCC.

The video of the conference announcing this development provides details on the history of troubles associated with this particular employee, who remains unnamed.

The employee also refused to talk to investigators, but officials were able to gather several disturbing pieces of information.

Retired Brig. Gen. Bruce Oliveira, who was charged with heading the state’s internal investigation, said the employee had a history of confusing “drills and real-world drills.”

In its preliminary report, the FCC said that the employee has refused to speak to the federal agency. However, HI-EMA last week provided the FCC with the employee’s written statement, helping the agency to better understand the events what that led to the false alert, according to the report.

The report also contained other perplexing findings:

  • Other employees realized a real alert had been sent when they got it on their phones.
  • About five minutes after the alert was sent, an employee told the worker who sent the missile message to cancel it so that it would no longer transmit to phones that were off or out of range. But the worker who triggered the alert “just sat there and didn’t respond.”
  • The state worker who sent the alert has at least twice before believed drills to be real-world events.
  • Those two incidents included a “fire incident and a tsunami incident,” officials said.
  • Further, the state worker had been a concern to “state warning point” employees for more than a decade and his performance “has been counseled and documented.”

The unnamed employee isn’t the only one who has been jettisoned.

Hawaii’s emergency management leader has resigned and a state employee who sent an alert falsely warning of an incoming ballistic missile has been fired, officials said Tuesday, after the mistake caused widespread panic earlier this month.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi stepped down Tuesday, state Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Joe Logan said. A second agency worker quit before disciplinary action was taken and another was being suspended without pay, Logan said in announcing results of an internal investigation.

The Hawaii emergency management system appears to be a disaster. It is fortunate that no one died (at least not permanently) as a result of the incompetence and boobery.


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