How Accountability Works in Government


Former WPRI employee Stephanie Chalfant describes the accountability faced by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency who inadvertently put an entire city into panic by hitting the “incoming missile” button rather than the “this is a test button”… twice:

The employee who hit the button has since been reassigned, according to state officials.

“I’m sure he feels horrible,” Chalfant added. “I can’t even imagine being in this person’s shoes who had done this. He must feel awful.”

Well, as long as he feels bad, then the public can rest assured that these sorts of mistakes — with the very real potential to put people in harm’s way — will not happen again.  (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

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In the private sector, the consequences to an ordinary employee — somebody who isn’t connected or mission critical — would almost certainly be much more substantial, not the least because the entire company could go out of business.

Once again, the impression is that they (government workers) don’t work for us.  We’re just lucky that they deign to provide us services.

  • Guest

    Obviously Stephanie was out to sea and out of harm’s way plus she didn’t research her story to get her facts right but decided to write a story anyways to get her name in the paper. The ole RI see me I was there trick!

    First off, there is “NO Button” as according to the TV broadcast it is a pull down screen with pre-made scripts (6 if I remember right), select and click on send.

    There are 6 officers on duty with a supervisor over sight all unclassified non union workers whose duty is to send alerts. There are three shifts providing 24/7 coverage 365 days a year.

    It was explained that at every shift one of the 6 officers runs an alert test that broadcasts only on inside network and not to outside. Somehow the 10 year officer selected a active warning instead of the test warning and when the system asked “do you really want to do this?” The officer selected YES and realized what was done when the person’s cellphone started going crazy with the warning from national Emergency Alert System.

    Hawaii Emergency Management Agency military General called Pacific Command and they confirmed no inbound missile 3min after the mistake. 12min after mistake HI-EMA sent Facebook and Twitter retraction alert notices that it was a false alarm. Hawaii police departments sent officers out in patrol cars broadcasting throughout neighborhoods that the alert was a false alarm because the 911 system and telephone systems became overwhelmed.

    It wasn’t until 38min after the initial false alarm was sent that a retraction alert message was sent out on Emergency Alert System. During those 38min North Korea could have thought Trump and U.S.A. under cover of an attack alert was launching an attack on them and could have launched their own first strike nuclear attack. WWIII was that close.

    All 54 states and territories have the same Emergency Alert System actually run by FEMA which answers to Homeland Security. Systems are created by the lowest bidder and built by civilian companies that don’t normally design military security and run security test and evaluation on software. Why did it take Hawaii 38min to send a retraction alert notices? Once the alert went out there was nothing built into the system to send an automated retraction. That had to be manually done at FEMA HQ and sent out.

    Every Tom, Dick and Harry is jumping in with criticism on this false alert. All sorts of investigations are starting. The whole state of Hawaii 10 times size of RI, 1.4 million population with approximately 240,000 world-wide tourists were frozen with some in panic mode thinking this was their last 12min on earth. This is the first time I’ve ever seen the local newspaper run stories about an incident in Hawaii for 4 consecutive days.

    Justin suggests “This is the way accountability works in goverment” without knowing and understanding the full facts and broader picture.

    Yes the offending officer who sent the alert out has been reassigned to another duty to be retrained however that doesn’t mean he/she can’t be fired! 10 years and a lot of training has been invested into that individual.

    If Donald Trump had not dialed up the nuclear tensions with North Korea to the all time heights they are now, HI-EMA would not be monthly testing for a nuclear ballistic missile attack. As a matter of fact, North Korea has the ability to hit all of the lower 48 states of the mainland U.S.A. and out to London, UK so it is not just a Hawaii thing. Newport and Middletown are prime military targets.

    My questions:
    Why was a system allowed to be put in place to send out alert messages for the protection of life without two person integrity?
    Why was a system allowed to operate with a test mode integrated into a standard operating mode?
    Why was a system put into operation without a means to broadcast an automated retraction alert?

    Remember, this is the FEMA national Emergency Alert System which by the way failed to turn on Hawaii’s alert sirens, failed to turn on some TV stations and failed to activate some cellphones.