No accountability for Hawaii doomsday message

  • 15 January 2018
  • NormanL
No accountability for Hawaii doomsday message

The false alarm about an incoming ballistic missile that sent Hawaii residents scrambling for cover over the weekend still has state officials grasping for answers as to how things went so terribly wrong.

One might think that such an horrific error would result in swift in, someone losing a job for panicking the population. But according to this National Review item, that's not likely to happen:

...apparently, no one is resigning, and the staffer in question is merely being “counseled” and retrained so he doesn’t do it again. According to state officials, the staffer answered “yes” when asked by the system if he was sure he wanted to send the message. He wasn’t even aware of his mistake until mobile phones near him began displaying the alert.

“This guy feels bad, right. He’s not doing this on purpose. It was a mistake on his part and he feels terrible about it,” explained Hawaii EMA administrator Vern Miyagi, a former Army major general. But Miyagi declined to say that the staffer would face any disciplinary actions. Richard Rapoza, the official spokesman for EMA, declined to identify the errant employee and added, “At this point, our major concern is to make sure we do what we need to do to reassure the public. This is not a time for pointing fingers.”

This is exactly the right time to point fingers - at the door, telling someone to get out. Part of the reason (besides scaring the bejeebers out of people) is the chain of problems this error forged:

During the 38-minute delay before a correction was issued on Saturday, mass panic broke out across the islands, with some parents hiding their children in storm drains. “There will probably be lawsuits and all kinds of repercussions,” a long-time Hawaii journalist told me. “People were calling each other for final goodbyes, and crying and panicking.”

The repercussions are already beginning. Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, lambasted state officials for not having reasonable safeguards in place. “False alerts undermine public confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during real emergencies,” Pai said. Brigette Namata, a television reporter in Honolulu, said it was “mind-boggling that we have officials here, we have state workers that are in charge of our public safety and a huge, egregious mistake like this happened.”

Everyone makes mistakes. Not everyone makes a mistake of this magnitude. Those who do are usually not given counselling. Instead, they get their walking papers. That governments cannot, or simply will not, hold their employees responsible for staggering errors of action or judgement (or both) is inexcusable.