HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu’s police chief says no one will disciplined after an employee participating in a training exercise at the main station Wednesday accidentally set off emergency sirens on Oahu, sending people scrambling for information on what was going on.
“This was an honest mistake, and we’ve made changes so that this doesn’t happen again,” said Police Chief Susan Ballard, in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.
“Our 911 call takers, radio dispatchers and supervisors are hardworking and dedicated, and they’re on the front lines when something like this happens. They understand the gravity and the implications. We sincerely apologize to the public for the distress and alarm that was created.”
The incident happened at 5:05 p.m., and an all clear was issued in about 12 minutes.
Ballard said the mistake was made because real software was being used during the training exercise. Going forward, computer screenshots will be used in training.
In the longer term, she said, the agency wants to purchase training software.
The incident has prompted some to question why the Honolulu Police Department has the ability to activate emergency sirens.
Turns out, officials say there are nine agencies statewide that have the ability to activate the siren system:
- Honolulu’s Department of Emergency Management
- Honolulu Police Department (main station dispatch)
- Maui Emergency Management Agency
- Maui Police Department (Kahului dispatch)
- Kauai Emergency Management Agency
- Kauai Police Department (Lihue dispatch)
- Hawaii County Civil Defense
- Hawaii Police Department (Hilo dispatch)
- Hawaii Emergency Management Agency
Tom Travis, administrator of HI-EMA, said it’s up to counties to decide when to set off the sirens.
“We don’t decide when the sirens are used,” said Travis. “They decide when the sirens are used. We have the ability to sound the sirens for each county as a backup.”
The bogus alarm reminded Hawaii residents of the Jan. 13, 2018 false missile alert.
In that case, a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee triggered the missile alert because he mistakenly thought that Hawaii was under threat. The false alarm generated national headlines, and months-long state investigations into how prepared the state is for real emergencies.