The worker blamed for “pushing the wrong button” on Saturday morning and triggering a false missile alert that sent a wave of panic across Hawaii has been “reassigned,” according to the state Emergency Management Agency.
“The employee who issued the alert has been temporarily reassigned pending the outcome of our internal investigation,” an agency spokesman told Fox News. “He will still report to work within our Emergency Operations Center, but in a different capacity that does not provide access to the warning system.”
The worker, who has not been publicly identified, had reportedly been trying to send out an internal test alert around 8 a.m. on Saturday when the mishap occurred. According to The Washington Post, the employee had been using a computer program to initiate the alert and had to choose from two options on a drop-down menu: “Test missile alert” or “Missile alert.” He mistakenly chose the latter, Hawaii EMA spokesman Richard Rapoza told the Post. The employee then confirmed the choice when prompted to do so by the program.
Rapoza said there are no plans to fire the worker, but that the agency was focusing on improving the alert system.
“Part of the problem was it was too easy — for anyone — to make such a big mistake,” Rapoza told the Post. “We have to make sure that we’re not looking for retribution, but we should be fixing the problems in the system.”
Vern Miyagi, the agency administrator, said at a Saturday press conference that the employee “feels terrible” about what happened.
“This guy feels bad, right. He’s not doing this on purpose — it was a mistake,” Miyagi said.
The error wasn’t corrected for 38 harrowing minutes. Hawaii residents and visitors described a state of “pandemonium,” as confusion and fear gripped the state.
“It was just complete panic, with neighbors running around looking for insight, looking for cover,” Chris Wall, a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, told HuffPost on Saturday. “Babies crying. Just pandemonium.”
Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) has apologized for the “hardship and inconvenience” caused by the alert, which he said was triggered by an employee pushing “the wrong button.”
Ige said he was working closely with state and federal officials to ensure such a mistake “never happens again.”