Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Full report -- FCC preliminary findings on Hawaii false missile alert

FULL report: FCC preliminary findings.

Preliminary Report:

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s
January 13, 2018
False Ballistic Missile Alert

January 30, 2018

•    At 8:07 AM on January 13, 2018, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) issued a false ballistic missile alert through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) System.    Chairman Pai immediately called on the Bureau to investigate.

•    To date, the Bureau has interviewed key stakeholders, including:
–    HI-EMA employees
–    Representatives of other emergency management agencies across the country
–    Alert origination software vendors (including the vendor who supplies HI-EMA)
–    Wireless service providers

•    The Bureau’s investigation is ongoing.

2

Events Leading Up to the False Alert

Time    Events

0805    •    HI-EMA’s midnight shift supervisor begins a no-notice ballistic missile defense drill at
a shift change by placing a call, pretending to be U.S. Pacific Command, to the day shift warning officers.

•    The midnight shift supervisor plays a recording over the phone that properly includes the drill language “EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE,” but also erroneously contains the text of an EAS message for a live ballistic missile alert, including the language, “THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The recording does not follow the script contained in HI-EMA’s standard operating procedure for this drill.

•    The day shift warning officers receive this recorded message on speakerphone.

•    While other warning officers understand that this is a drill, the warning officer at the alert origination terminal claimed to believe, in a written statement provided to HI- EMA, that this was a real emergency, not a drill.

0807    •    This day shift warning officer responds, as trained for a real event, by transmitting a
live incoming ballistic missile alert to the State of Hawaii.

•    In doing so, the day shift warning officer selects the template for a live alert from a drop-down menu, and clicks “yes” in response to a prompt that reads, “Are you sure that you want to send this Alert?”

Events After the False Alert

Time    Events
0808    •    Day shift warning officer receives false WEA on mobile device
0809    •    HI-EMA notifies Hawaii Governor of false alert
0810    •    HI-EMA to U.S. Pacific Command and Honolulu PD: no missile launch
0812    •    HI-EMA issues a cancellation, ceasing retransmission over EAS, WEA
0813    •    HI-EMA begins outreach, but its phone lines become congested
0820    •    HI-EMA posts on Facebook, Twitter – “NO missile threat to Hawaii”
0824    •    Hawaii Governor retweets notice that there is no missile threat
0827    •    HI-EMA determines that an EAS, WEA Civil Emergency Message (CEM) is the best vehicle for correction
0830    •    FEMA confirms HI-EMA’s view on CEM; Hawaii Governor posts correction on
Facebook
0831    •    HI-EMA supervisor logs into alert system, begins to create false alert correction
0845    •    HI-EMA issues correction through EAS and WEA that there is no missile threat

1.    A combination of human error and inadequate safeguards contributed to the transmission of this false alert.

2.    HI-EMA’s lack of preparation for how to respond to the transmission of a false alert was largely responsible for the 38-minute delay in correcting the alert.

3.    HI-EMA has taken steps designed to ensure that an incident such as this never happens again.

•    The Bureau will continue its investigation and issue a final report, including recommended measures to safeguard against false alerts and to mitigate their harmful effects if they do occur.

•    After the issuance of the final report, the FCC will partner with FEMA to engage in stakeholder outreach and encourage the implementation of best practices.

•    Federal, state, and local officials must work together to prevent such a false alert from happening again.