FCC chairman: False Hawaii missile alert ‘absolutely unacceptable’

FCC chairman: False Hawaii missile alert ‘absolutely unacceptable’
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Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Sunday said preventative safeguards weren’t in place when an emergency alert was inadvertently sent to Hawaii residents on Saturday, calling the error “absolutely unacceptable.”

“Based on the information we have collected so far, it appears that the government of Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the transmission of a false alert,” Pai said in a statement.

“Moving forward, we will focus on what steps need to be taken to prevent a similar incident from happening again,” he added.

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A false emergency alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile was sent out Saturday because an employee pushed the wrong button during a shift change, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) said.

The alert, which was sent to cellphones and played over television and radio airwaves, urged residents to take shelter, and prompted widespread panic on the islands and the mainland. 

Officials declared minutes later that the alert was sent in error, but it took 38 minutes before a second alert notified residents of the mistake. 

Pai said Sunday the FCC’s investigation into the incident is “well underway.”

He added that federal, state and local officials must work to identify vulnerabilities in the system to prevent future false alerts from going out, and to ensure corrections are issued immediately in the event of a false alert.