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Civil Defense Accountability Bill Following Hawai‘i False Missile Alert

Many folks in Hawai‘i were terrified following the false alert that a ballistic missile was inbound.  In response to that false alert sent out to Hawai‘i residents on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard today introduced the Civil Defense Accountability Act of 2018 to:

  • Address the vulnerabilities that allowed the false alert to go out to more than a million people across the state and go uncorrected for 38 minutes;
  • Ensure transparent investigations into the incident through online public disclosure requirements;
  • Establish best practices to strengthen state and national preparedness and disaster communications plans; and
  • Evaluate and strengthen preparedness nationwide to respond to biological, chemical, radiological, or nuclear attacks to the United States.

Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Don Young are original cosponsors of the bipartisan legislation.

The Civil Defense Accountability Act of 2018 would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Defense (DoD), and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to publicly disclose incident and recommendation reports about the Saturday, Jan. 13, false alert. It would also compel ballistic missile civil defense agencies to review the current notification protocols for ballistic missile threats and study the best practices regarding civil defense emergencies to prevent a similar catastrophic mistake. In addition, the bill would instruct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publicly detail the ability of HHS and health care providers to respond to a biological, chemical, radiological, or nuclear weapons attack.

Rep. Gabbard said: “The false ballistic missile alert sent out across Hawai‘i corroded public trust and revealed gaps in preparedness measures at every level of government. Given the threats we face and the vulnerabilities that have been exposed, there are serious changes that need to take place at the federal, state, and local levels to ensure this kind of colossal failure never happens again. Along with providing Hawaii’s people with timely answers into what went wrong and why, we also need to investigate the gaps that exist at home and across the country that could trigger or perpetuate future emergencies. Our legislation will ensure the lessons learned from Hawaii’s false alert are used to identify and fix preparedness gaps nationwide.”

“Last month, Hawaiians experienced a terrifying false ballistic missile alert which is unacceptable,” said Congressman Young. “The chaos and uncertainty throughout that situation should not happen again which is why I’m proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation. By addressing the conditions that caused this false alarm to happen in the first place, we can establish and improve best practices for our civil defense operations. This bill will improve public outreach when real emergencies take place which is crucial for restoring people’s trust in their government’s readiness and commitment to public safety.”

“This legislation is an important part of rebuilding the public’s trust in government,” said Congresswoman Hanabusa. “One of our basic responsibilities is to provide public safety, especially in a moment of crisis. The morning of January 13th revealed an unfortunate array of issues within the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), the protocols and policies that govern the issuance of a ballistic missile alert and the community’s preparation and response. In the weeks since the false alarm, we have heard confusing, often conflicting accounts from state officials about what went wrong and who is responsible. The public deserves a transparent, accurate accounting, like the one recently completed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), so we can make corrections and move forward. This incident also highlighted the need to review HI-EMA’s Attack Warning Signal system and our community response plan in the event of a biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear attack. Mahalo to Congresswoman Gabbard and Congressman Young for their bipartisan efforts to help restore the community’s faith in government and ensure we are better prepared.”

Background: The Civil Defense Accountability Act of 2018 would:

  • Assess Current Reporting Procedures: Within 90 days, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of Federal Communications Commission, is required to submit a report to Congress regarding the current notification protocols for ballistic missile threats. This report will assess the notification protocols required under Federal Law or regulations of federal and state entities and the communications between these entities, after a ballistic missile threat is identified, during a ballistic missile threat, and regarding ballistic missile impact warnings.
  • Establish Best Practices: Within 180 days of enactment, the Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through FEMA, is required to conduct a study to identify the best practices regarding civil defense emergencies. This study will identify plans for local, state, and federal communications before, during, and after a civil defense emergency. In addition, the study will include plans for State communication with residents and local and State security and contingency plans. The initial study shall include no fewer than 13 states, including Hawaii, Alaska, California, Washington, and five states bordering an ocean including the Gulf of Mexico. Within 180 days of enactment, the Secretary of State will also submit a report to Congress regarding the 13 state study including deficiency trends, best practices, and plans to improve public outreach regarding civil defense emergencies. The unclassified portions of this report will be disseminated to states within 270 days.
  • Evaluate Federal Response: Within 60 days of enactment, the Secretary of Defense, the Administrator of FEMA, and the Director of the FCC will provide to Congress and publish an online report detailing their agencies’ actions during the ballistic missile false alarm in Hawai‘i. The report will also detail corrective actions and recommendations to prevent future false alarms.
  • Strengthen Public Health Preparedness: Within 180 days, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Office of the Assistant Secretary of for Preparedness and Response, will submit a report to Congress and publish an online report regarding the ability of HHS and health care providers to respond to biological, chemical, radiological, or nuclear weapons attacks on the U.S. The Secretary is also required to submit recommendations to Congress and develop a public outreach program in coordination with local and State entities using these recommendations. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will also take into consideration the recommendations in the report when issuing grants under the Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreement and the Hospital Preparedness program.

BILL SUMMARY:

Section 1 – Short Title “Civil Defense Accountability Act of 2018”

Section 2 – Findings: Findings note the traumatizing false missile alert sent to individuals, residents, and visitors in Hawai‘i on January 13; the President’s National Security Strategy that highlights a growing nuclear threat posed by North Korea; the re-implementation of monthly outdoor warning siren system tests in Hawai‘i; a HI-EMA launch-to-landing ballistic missile estimation from North Korea to Hawai‘i; and a Missile Defense Agency assessment that sophisticated ballistic missile technology is widely available to adversary nations of U.S. and its allies.

Section 3 – Report Regarding Current Ballistic Missile Notification Protocols: Within 90 days, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of Federal Communications Commission, is required to submit a report to Congress regarding the current notification protocols for ballistic missile threats. This report will assess the notification protocols required under Federal Law or regulations to federal and state entities and the communications between these entities, after a ballistic missile threat is identified, during a ballistic missile threat, and regarding ballistic missile impact warnings.

Section 4 – Civil Defense Emergency Best Practices: Within 180 days of enactment, the Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through FEMA, is required to conduct a study to identify the best practices regarding civil defense emergencies. This study will identify plans for local, state, and federal communications before, during, and after a civil defense emergency. In addition, the study will include plans for State communication with residents and local and State security and contingency plans. The initial study shall include no fewer than 13 states, including Hawai‘i, Alaska, California, Washington, and five states bordering an ocean including the Gulf of Mexico. Within 180 days of enactment, the Secretary of State will also submit a report to Congress regarding the 13 state study including deficiency trends, best practices, and plans to improve public outreach regarding civil defense emergencies. The unclassified portions of this report will be disseminated to states within 270 days.

Section 5- Incident Report Regarding Ballistic Missile False Alarm: Within 60 days of enactment, the Secretary of Defense, the Administrator of FEMA, and the Director of the FCC will provide to Congress and publish an online report detailing their agencies’ actions during the January 13 ballistic missile false alarm in Hawai‘i. The report will also detail corrective actions and recommendations to prevent future false alarms.

Section 6 – Public Health Recommendations: Within 180 days, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Office of the Assistant Secretary of for Preparedness and Response, will submit a report to Congress and publish an online report regarding the ability of HHS and health care providers to respond to biological, chemical, radiological, or nuclear weapons attacks on the U.S. The Secretary is also required to submit recommendations to Congress and develop a public outreach program in coordination with local and State entities using these recommendations. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will also take into consideration the recommendations in the report when issuing grants under the Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreement and the Hospital Preparedness program.

LETTER: Police Citations on Day of False Alarm

For anyone who received a cell phone citation on the day of the false ballistic missile attack.

What followed after 8:07 a.m. on January 13, 2018, was a day full of fear, anxiety, and confusion. Our office has become aware that many drivers were cited that morning during a Hawaii Police Department program during the minutes after the false alarm notification. It is my belief that that minutes after the false alarm was not the appropriate time to resume strict enforcement of a program that issues harsh and expensive $297 fines for everyone using a mobile device while driving.

While many residents were ticketed for driving while using a cellphone in Hilo, I would like to assist all drivers who were cited for trying get accurate information and communicating with loved ones during the anxiety laden morning:

For those drivers cited who can not afford a $297 fine:

1. I would recommend every driver cited to write to the Traffic Court, explaining the circumstances of this traffic violation citation and asking for your citation to be dismissed.
2. If you don’t get a communication in response, or your request is denied, I would recommend asking for a court appearance first, before paying any fine.
3. If you would like, I am willing to provide you a letter to read into the Court record or hand to the Traffic Court Judge explaining the extraordinary situation that morning and asking for leniency, this one time. To get the letter, I would need a photocopy of your citation for verification. It can be sent to my office at 25 Aupuni St. Hilo, 96720. I could even photocopy it for you, at my office.
4. You can ask for community service in lieu of a monetary fine. There are alot of needy nonprofit organizations out there that can use skilled volunteers.
5. If enough drivers request it, I would be willing to schedule a meeting with Police Chief Paul Ferreira on this matter. Again, I would need your written permission and a copy of your violation notice, for reference.

Councilmember Jen Ruggles

Letters, commentaries and opinion pieces are not edited by Big Island Now.

Gov. Ige: False Alert ‘Will Never Happen Again’

Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige issued a message to residents and visitors of Hawai‘i on Sunday, Jan. 14, at 1:07 p.m., the day after an erroneous message was sent by the state’s emergency management agency, warning of an incoming ballistic missile.

“On Saturday, Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors experienced an unfortunate situation that has never happened before and will never happen again—a false alert issued by the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency that a ballistic missile was on its way to the Hawaiian Islands.

“On behalf of the State of Hawai‘i, I deeply apologize for this false alert that created stress, anxiety and fear of a crisis in our residents and guests.

“I can personally assure each and every resident and visitor that steps have already been taken by the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency to ensure that a situation of this type never happens again.

“The Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency is committed to protecting the people of Hawai‘i, and over the past year it has been taking responsible measures to prepare for the highly unlikely event of a missile attack. As a state government, we must learn from this unfortunate error and continue to prepare for any safety threat to Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors—whether it is a man-made threat or a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tsunami.

“In the next few days, I will continue meeting with our emergency preparedness team and personally talking with families, individuals and leaders from around our state to ensure we reach every household. We must also do what we can to demand peace and a de-escalation of tensions with North Korea.

“Again, on behalf of the State of Hawai‘i, I apologize for yesterday’s events and any hardship and inconvenience this created for you, your family and loved ones.”

During a press conference on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 13, 2018, Hawaiʻi Gov. David Ige said he is “angry and disappointed” following a false alarm notification issued by the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), warning the public of an incoming ballistic missile.

HI-EMA confirmed that there was no ballistic missile and that there were no computer hacks to its system. The message was sent out due to human error, according to authorities.

HI-EMA Administrator Vern Miyagi said he “deeply apologizes” for the incident, adding that he accepts responsibility because it was “his team” that was involved.

HI-EMA officials said they have already taken measures to ensure that an incident such as the one that occurred this morning does not happen again. HI-EMA has also started a review of cancellation procedures to inform the public immediately if a cancellation is warranted.

“We understand that false alarms such as this can erode public confidence in our emergency notification systems,” HI-EMA officials said. “We understand the serious nature of the warning alert systems and the need to get this right 100% of the time.”

“I know first-hand how today’s false alarm affected all of us here in Hawaiʻi, and I am sorry for the pain and confusion it caused,” said Gov. Ige. “I, too, am extremely upset about this and am doing everything I can do to immediately improve our emergency management systems, procedures and staffing,”

On the recommendations of Miyagi, the governor has suspended all future drills until HI-EMA has completed a full analysis of the event.

HI-EMA has already instituted a two-person activation/verification rule for tests as well as actual missile launch notifications.

An automatic cancellation command that that can be triggered within seconds of an error has been put in place.

This is the process that HI-EMA is currently reviewing:

Expanding notification processes for Hawaiʻi’s Congressional delegations, county mayors and key staff.

A formal preliminary report of findings and corrective actions will be issued next week.

According to HI-EMA officials, in the case of an actual event, it would take 20 minutes from launch to impact for a missile from North Korea to reach Hawaiʻi.

Authorities would spend the first five minutes characterizing the launch to determine the missile’s path. Once it is determined that is incoming to Hawaiʻi, the warning point person has the authority to press the button to initiate public notification.

If an actual threat exists and the public notification has been issued, residents and visitors of Hawai‘i would have an estimated 11 to 13 minutes to get inside, stay inside and stay informed.

The federal government’s Ready.org website offers guidelines on what to do before, during and after a nuclear blast.

RELATED LINKS

NO INCOMING BALLISTIC MISSILE: FALSE ALARM
Gov. Ige Statement on False Alarm
Hawai‘i Reacts to Ballistic Missile False Alarm
Hawai‘i Tourism Authority on Ballistic Missile False Alarm
Hawai‘i Emergency Management Attributes False Alarm to Human Error

Gov. Ige Statement on Today’s False Alarm

Hawai‘i Gov. Ige released the following statement after meetings and debriefings with leaders at the Department of Defense and Hawai‘i Emergency Management after today’s false alarm to an incoming ballistic missile:

Today is a day most of us will never forget. A terrifying day when our worst nightmares appeared to become a reality. A day where we frantically grabbed what we could, tried to figure out how and where to shelter and protect ourselves and our ‘ohana, said our “I love yous,” and prayed for peace.

I know firsthand how today’s false notification affected all of us here in Hawai‘i, and I am sorry for the pain and confusion it caused. I, too, am extremely upset about this and am doing everything I can to immediately improve our emergency management systems, procedures and staffing.

I have spent the morning with Gen. Logan, Hi-EMA Administrator Vern Miayagi and their teams and have directed that they make immediate changes. We are doing everything we possibly can to prevent this from happening again.

I encourage all of us to take stock, determine what we all can do better to be prepared in the future – as a state, county and in our own households. We must also do what we can to demand peace and a de-escalation with North Korea, so that warnings and sirens can become a thing of the past.

Governor David Ige

NO INCOMING BALLISTIC MISSILE: FALSE ALARM

VIDEO: Damon Tucker interviews Mayor Harry Kim.

UPDATE: Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, 11:13 a.m.

Maui County Emergency Management Agency Officer Herman Andaya told Big Island Now just before 11 a.m. today that the incident occurred during a shift change at the State of Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency in Honolulu.

It is the State of Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency that sounds these alerts, Andaya said.

There are three shift changes throughout day at HEMA, operating 24/7, he said.

“They have procedures in place,” Andaya said. “They go through a drill of what to do at every shift change.”

“It is our understanding that at the 8 a.m. shift change, someone ‘hit the wrong button’—erroneously sounding the alert,” he said.

“The false alarm is still under investigation by the State of Hawaii,” Andaya said. “Although it was a false alarm, we should take this opportunity to prepare ourselves for such emergencies. Our residents should remember that if this was an actual ballistic missile attack, the public is advised to get inside, stay inside and stay informed.”

The public should also be reminded that prior to an emergency, make a plan, create an emergency kit and stay informed (see “EMERGENCY KIT RECOMMENDATIONS” below).

A guidance summary of what to do in the event of an actual attack can be found online.

UPDATE: 10:43 a.m.

The following is a statement by Sen. J. Kalani English, Senate Majority Leader, on today’s false ballistic threat alarm:

“The events surrounding this morning’s false alarm regarding a “ballistic missile threat to Hawaiʻi” is both unfortunate and very unacceptable. The Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency (Civil Defense) and the United States Pacific Command Center have confirmed that there is no threat to our islands.

“I am outraged that a mistake of this magnitude occurred. The initial alert was sent out via Civil Defense at 8:15am HST and it took the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency over 38 minutes to clarify that the “alarm” was inadvertent and indeed a mistake. The panic and pandemonium that many in Hawaiʻi experienced was unwarranted and completely unnecessary.

“I will be working with my colleagues in the Legislature to investigate into this matter and to provide the proper oversight to ensure that our state emergency alert system is properly functioning. We need to ensure that this never happens again and I am committed to doing so.”

UPDATE: 9:28 a.m.

Gov. David Ige is meeting this morning with top officials of the State Department of Defense and the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency to determine what caused this morning’s false alarm and to prevent it from happening again.

“While I am thankful this morning’s alert was a false alarm, the public must have confidence in our emergency alert system. I am working to get to the bottom of this so we can prevent an error of this type in the future,” said Gov. Ige.

House of Representatives Speaker Scott K. Saiki released the following statement after the false missile alarm:

“This system we have been told to rely upon failed and failed miserably today. I am deeply troubled by this misstep that could have had dire consequences. Measures must be taken to avoid further incidents that caused wholesale alarm and chaos today.

“Clearly, government agencies are not prepared and lack the capacity to deal with emergency situations. Apparently, the wrong button was pushed and it took over 30 minutes for a correction to be announced. Parents and children panicked during those 30 minutes.

“The Hawai‘i House of Representatives will immediately investigate what happened and there be consequences. This cannot happen again.”

News sources have simply reported that “the wrong button was pushed.”

ORIGINAL POST: Saturday, Jan. 13, 8:10 a.m.

The alert sent out at 8:07 a.m. is an official false alarm, according to Hawai‘i County Civil Defense.

According to a police officer interviewed by Big Island Now Reporter Damon Tucker in front of Hawai‘i County Civil Defense headquarters, the alarm was sent in error. It was supposed to be a scheduled test.

At 8:36 a.m., the COUNTY OF HAWAI‘I Civil Defense issued this information: “Please disregard message of nuclear attack. There is NO THREAT of Missile Launch at this time.”

The alert said, “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawai‘i. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

A disaster alert was sent out at 8:07 a.m. About 30 minutes later, officials released information about the false alarm.

In the meantime, there was no additional information available on radio or TV, and none was provided to the media by official outlets.

No warning sirens were sounded throughout the state.

It has been reported that an incoming missile from North Korea could reach Hawai‘i in 15 to 20 minutes. The state has no nuclear shelters.
As tensions between the US and North Korea continue to escalate, Hawai‘i has resumed the monthly tests at 11:45 a.m. on the first business day of every month to inform its residents of an impending nuclear attack.
The Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency said that the monthly tests are intended to update the population on what the agency is doing to “prepare our state for a nuclear threat.”

However, authorities say the possibility of a North Korean nuclear strike is unlikely.

In response to BigIslandNow.com’s disaster alert post, Facebook post and video post, Big Islanders expressed their concerns along with gratitude for the information—especially the false alarm notice:
The frightening part… we believed it, because our leadership has been so incredibly poor.
The concern here is that citizens will now be conditioned to respond ineffectively in the event of a true emergency. Major fail.
Sounds like some emergency official types need to be sent packing.
If Trump pushes the big red button on this mishap, there’s no turning back. We want PEACE.
No the statement they MEANT to issue was, “We cannot apologize enough for the costly mistake of issuing a false nuclear missile alarm to the citizens of Hawaii. We are looking into this matter and will ensure it will not repeat in the future.” You don’t just tell people to DISREGARD after all that mayhem. An apology is due IMMEDIATELY!
I called my sis right away crying scared. I still cannot breathe have a knot on my entire body. This is totally unacceptable. They need to take this seriously.
I hope they will track ER visits for cardiac events this week. Spoken from a 9/11 mental health provider, cortisol levels for the entire state just sky-rocketed. There will certainly be medical fallout that should be documented.
I am extremely surprised how sporadic coverage was on the local radio and tv during the alert! In such circumstances, black out all programmed shows and set alert message(s) on repeat or switch to local news reporter!
Sounds like a scare tactic. Someone’s head should roll.
Wow that’s a big mistake!
Appreciate you reporting the news as I couldn’t find it anywhere and no other messages came over our phone.
Radio stations need a live body to make intercede recorded programming.
 It shows how many people are not prepared.
Someone needs to be fired!
FALSE ALARM=HEART ATTACK
Prayers.
Thank God!

If this was an actual warning, not a false alarm, Hawai‘i residents and visitors should immediately seek shelter. Again, the state has no nuclear fallout shelters.

EMERGENCY KIT RECOMMENDATIONS

  • 14 days of food, water and medications:
  • One gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation.
  • Nonperishable food.
  • Manual can opener.
  • Battery-powered or solar-powered radio with extra batteries.
  • Important documents in a sealed plastic bag:
  • Identification.
  • Debit and credit card information.
  • Banking information.
  • All insurance information.
  • Healthcare directives.
  • Copy of property title/deeds.
  • Copy of prescriptions and dosages.
  • Phone list of family and important numbers.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Plastic bag and ties for personal sanitation.
  • Matches, blankets and tarps.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Whistle to signal for help.
  • Personal hygiene items:
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Soap and shampoo.
  • Antibacterial hand wipes.
  • Toilet paper.
  • Deodorant.
  • Eyecare (if needed).
  • Moisturizing lotion.
  • Extra cash in small bills.

Contact your emergency management/county civil defense agency to report siren operation issues:

Hawai‘i County: (808) 935-0031
Maui County: (808) 270-7285
City and County of Honolulu: (808) 723-8960
Kaua‘i County: (808) 241-1800

RELATED LINK
Hawai‘i Completes First Attack Warning Test Since Cold War