Hawaii employee who sent false missile alert had confused drills for real world scenarios before

Hawaii employee who sent false missile alert had confused drills for real world scenarios before
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A Hawaii Emergency Management employee who mistakenly sent out a ballistic missile alert earlier this month had twice previously confused drill scenarios with real world scenarios, state officials said Tuesday.

An employee sent out an alert on Jan. 13 notifying Hawaii residents of an incoming ballistic missile during what was supposed to be a drill, prompting widespread panic. The state did not correct the message for nearly 40 minutes.

Gen. Bruce Oliveira, who led the state’s internal investigation into the false missile alert, said the employee responsible for sending the message was fired last Friday. 

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In the past 10 years, the employee had confused drill situations for real world situations “at least two times,” Oliveira said. One mistake was on a drill for a fire, while another was on a drill for a tsunami, he said.

The employee, whose name has not yet been released, received “on the spot” corrections from his supervisor and additional counseling, officials said. However, he was not removed from his position.

The man's co-workers also expressed concerns about his job performance, and said they didn't feel comfortable working with him, Oliveira said.

"They felt he was not capable of doing his job," he said.

Hawaiian officials held a press conference Tuesday to discuss the state’s internal investigation into the false missile alert. The state also released a report detailing what happened, and recommended changes to avoid a similar incident in the future.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday released its own preliminary report on the incident, which found the employee who sent out the alert believed it was a real emergency, not a drill.

State officials previously said the message was sent after an employee hit the wrong button during a shift change.