'You have my promise': Ige vows false missile alert won't happen again

VIDEO: Gov. Ige explains missile alert mistake on Sunrise
Published: Jan. 15, 2018 at 10:23 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 16, 2018 at 9:19 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a rare address to the state Monday night, the governor again apologized for the "fear, anxiety and heartache" Saturday's false alert about an inbound ballistic missile caused in the islands and pledged that his administration is taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"Children going down manholes, stores closing their doors to those seeking shelter and cars driving at high speeds cannot happen again. We will do a better job of educating the public," Gov. David Ige said.

"Let me be clear, false notifications — and waiting for what felt like an eternity — will not happen again. You have my promise on this."

Ige also announced that he's signed an executive order appointing Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, the state's deputy adjutant general, to oversee a review of emergency management efforts and "immediately implement needed changes."

Ige's address, which started at 6 p.m., followed two days of mounting criticism over his response to the false alert, which sent Hawaii's 1.4 million residents and hundreds of thousands of visitors into a state of panic for nearly 40 minutes — until emergency officials confirmed the message was sent in error.

The false alarm was caused when an emergency management employee pushed the wrong button, sending out an actual alert rather than a test.

That employee, a 10-year veteran of the agency, has been reassigned but not fired.

Ige, however, said in an interview on Hawaii News Now Sunrise on Tuesday morning that an investigation is still underway and that an "appropriate action" will be taken to determine what will happen with that employee.

The alert that went out to all Hawaii smart phones was nothing less than terrifying: "Missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill." It took state officials 38 minutes to send a correction, though authorities took to social media within 15 minutes to debunk the alarm.

But within seconds of the mistake, residents and visitors scrambled to find shelter. People huddled in their bathtubs. They got into storm drains or rushed into basements. Some tried to seek shelter in businesses only to be turned away.

Ige said his administration will focus on reaching out to the business community to ensure that never happens again.

"We want them to know what the appropriate response is. We don't want children going down manholes, we don't want businesses turning people away."

Many have questioned how the Ige administration handled the false alarm, including why it took so long to send out a correction.

When asked on Sunrise why it took so long for him to say anything, Ige said it was partly because it took a while to get to Diamond Head and partly because it was difficult to communicate with emergency management officials.

"I think there were many lessons learned from this event," Ige said. "One is to improve communications."

That criticism took a scarier turn over the weekend, when the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency confirmed members of its staff were receiving death threats.

"I will not stand for scapegoating of our emergency management personnel when a number of unfortunate errors caused this event. Death threats are completely unacceptable and not how we do things here," Ige said.

"I am the governor and these good, decent emergency personnel work for me. I am ultimately responsible. I wish I could say there was a simple reason for why it took so long to get the correction to the false alert out."

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• WATCH: Ige says false missile threat alarm was result of someone pushing wrong button

In the wake of the false alert, the FCC has pledged an investigation and state lawmakers have called for hearings. President Donald Trump has also said his administration will be getting involved.

However, Ige said on Tuesday he has not had any direct communication with the Trump administration or the FCC.

Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, meanwhile, slammed Ige's handling of the false alarm, which garnered national and international headlines and also prompted broader questions about how localities oversee the system used to send emergency alerts to smart phones.

"In this instance, the leader was AWOL," Abercrombie said. "In this instance, the leader completely dropped the ball. In this instance, the leader was apparently frozen in place."

This story will be updated.

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