False missile alert: So are we buying this "wrong button" story?

When Allahpundit was covering the breaking news of Oh My God We’re All Going To Die yesterday, panic slowly turned to relief, but those feelings gave way to a mixture of anger and confusion. What the heck happened? By the end of the article we learn that the rather tardy apology from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HEMA) boiled down to one excuse… somebody pushed the wrong button.

Seriously? Pushed the wrong button? But these were the guys from the agency in charge, so everyone, including CNN, ran with the story.

An emergency alert notification sent out on Saturday claiming a “ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii” was a false alarm, according to state leaders and emergency officials, who blamed it on an employee who “pushed the wrong button.”

Granted, by that point people just seemed to be glad to be alive and a lot of them likely didn’t have time to comment while they looked for a new pair of pants to change into. But some of us were batting this around on social media and, at least in my case, having some trouble swallowing this explanation. The first telling of the story didn’t even suggest there was a drill going on, just that they were in the middle of a shift change when the supposedly errant “button pushing” took place. Later it was revealed that there actually was a drill in progress, but the idea of the button remained.

I realize it’s an old system which has been in place since the cold war, but I wasn’t buying it. There is simply no way that there’s “a button” somewhere in the HEMA facility that generates such a statewide alarm. What would the label on that button be? Press Button If Everyone Is Totally Screwed? And somebody rushing to catch the next shuttle as they got off work just hit is as they went by? If such a button existed, at some point over the past decade or more somebody would have already accidentally pressed it, leaned against it, sat on it or spilled coffee over it resulting in an electrical short which activated the system. It’s got to be more complicated than that.

I was talking on Twitter to our friend and Red State colleague Mickey White, who asked if I had a theory. I did.

The agency is still playing it rather close to the vest for some reason, but I think we have a hint that something more along the lines of what I suggested took place. You can find it in this article from The Atlantic. They interviewed Hawaii Emergency Management Agency representative Richard Rapoza, and he offered an explanation with a slight change in the wording. (Emphasis added)

According to Rapoza, the agency was undergoing a shift change. “During shift change they do a drill and somebody clicked the wrong thing on a computer,” he said. To send a meaningful all-clear notice, which appeared about a half hour later (“There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.”) required properly composing and offsending a new IPAWS civil emergency message.

Now we have something that makes a bit more sense. So there was a drill going on at shift change time. Clearly a series of steps would be required before reaching the point where such a dire transmission would go out to every mobile device on the islands and start sirens blaring. At the end of such a drill, there’s likely a step where they’ve proven that they know how to confirm the incoming threat and are authorized to issue the warning. At that point, the responsible person probably has to either cancel the warning or only send a test message to a select crowd or something. But the real, “go time” option was mistakenly selected instead.

So rather than “the wrong button” being pushed, what we most likely have is the wrong “key” being pressed or the wrong link being clicked in an emergency response drill program. Makes a lot more sense to me.

As to the conspiracy theories running around about how this was either a hacking incident being covered up or an actual missile launch which we want to hide, forget about it. In the latter case, multiple countries would have seen the launch. You can’t keep that a secret. And HEMA isn’t the group who would know about such an event first and initiate the action. They would have been informed by somebody else at the federal level and confirmed the message before sending everyone into a panic.

As for the hacker theory… okay. I can’t rule that one out 100% but I’d put the probability as staggeringly low. If that system is so automated that it can be triggered remotely without a single, physical step of human intervention at HEMA they need a serious redesign immediately. It just doesn’t make sense.

Now if we can just install those new floating water wings around the islands so they don’t tip over we should be all set.

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Jazz Shaw 12:01 PM on November 28, 2022