The worker who sent out the false alert about an inbound ballistic missile on Jan. 13 issued it because they believed an attack was going to happen. The Federal Communications Commission announced the finding on Tuesday.
Before the announcement, the only official explanation of the event said that the worker pressed the wrong button.
38 Minutes To Correct
Residents of Hawaii were sent into a panic when they received the inbound missile alert to their phones. Governor David Y. Ige of Hawaii and the state were not able to correct the false message for 38 minutes.
The false missile alert occurred when a worker misinterpreted the instructions from a midnight shift supervisor. Instead of thinking the instructions were for a test, the worker believed that the instructions were for a real emergency. Residents of the state and visitors received the alert when it was sent out.
Emergency management officials in Hawaii knew that the state would be having an emergency drill, but the employee who sent out the wrong alert wasn't told beforehand. The employee still hasn't been publicly identified.
Originally, the alert was blamed on the worker selecting the wrong option from a drop-down menu. Choosing an option also included the prompt "Are you sure you want to send this alert?" To which the employee clicked "yes."
"In my view, here are the two most troubling things that our investigation has found so far: Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency didn't have reasonable safeguards in place to prevent human error from resulting in the transmission of a false alert; and Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency didn't have a plan for what to do if a false alert was transmitted," said FCC chairmain Ajit Pai.
Governor Ige said he took so long to respond to the alert on Twitter because he didn't know the password to his account. Ige was informed just two minutes after the alert was issued that it was a false alarm. It took him 15 minutes to be able to communicate this to his followers.
"I have to confess that I don't know my Twitter account log-ons and the passwords, so certainly that's one of the changes that I've made," said Gov. David Ige last week.
The slow response is making lawmakers and regulators consider better options for updating the wireless emergency alerts. This system is being updated slowly. Next year, it will include longer messages and Spanish-language versions of the alerts.