Worker who caused botched missile alert in Hawaii reassigned

Jan. 15 (UPI) — The emergency worker who mistakenly caused a ballistic missile alert to be sent across Hawaii was reassigned pending outcome of an internal investigation.

A spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management System did not say on Monday what the worker would be doing but said it is a role that has no access to the warning system.

The 38 minutes of confusion early Saturday caused panic for 1.4 million Hawaiians who were already on edge because late last year the state reinstated its Cold War-era nuclear warning system after North Korea fired off a ballistic missile.

The Federal Communications Commission is investigating the mishap, which happened just after 8 a.m. Saturday when the worker selected the wrong item on a computer program’s drop-down menu, which gave two options: “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.”

Authorities said the worker mistakenly selected the second option, which sent cellphones across the state a message in all caps: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

The employee has been with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency for 10 years. A spokesman for the agency said the company is receiving death threats over the matter via anonymous telephone calls.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Sunday said Hawaii didn’t have “reasonable” safeguards in place to prevent erroneous alerts like the one Saturday.

President Donald Trump said going forward, federal officials will become more involved in Hawaii’s notification program.

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