• Tuesday, October 16, 2018
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State issues different image of screen leading to employee’s false missile alert

  • COURTESY HAWAII EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY

    A screen image released by the state today that is a “close facsimile,” but not the actual screen shot, of the menu of options before the state employee who sent out the false missile alert.

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Techies and the general public are already weighing in on the design, logic and layout of the screen that the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency released Monday, illustrating what the state employee saw before clicking on the wrong link, leading to the false missile alert.

Some equated it to community bulletin board Craigslist, while others called it archaic and outdated in online and social media posts.

HI-EMA spokesman Richard Rapoza sent the Star-Advertiser another screen image today, which he said is a “close facsimile” of the menu of options before the state employee, but not the actual screen shot. This one, he said, is closer to the actual menu itself.

“We can’t release an actual image of the screen itself for security reasons,” he said. “What we’re asking people to do is is reserve judgement. We have a couple of investigations going on right now. We hope the public will let us complete our investigation, complete our review so we can give a complete picture of what happened, so people can look at the real facts of the event and not speculate online.”

Under a bold-faced “1. State EOC” is a list of options that includes “DRILL-PACOM (DEMO) STATE ONLY.” That was the link the employee was supposed to have clicked on for the test. Listed further below is the “PACOM (CDW) — STATE ONLY” link that lead to the incoming ballistic missile alert sent to residents and visitors statewide.

As of Saturday, said Rapoza, the new “False Alarm BMD (CEM) – STATE ONLY” link was added as a mechanism to cancel a false alarm.

“It’s a menu,” he said. “People were suggesting a big, red button. It’s all computerized.”

After clicking on the link, there would be a confirmation message, and the employee had to click “yes.” The menu system has been in development for awhile, he said, with the ballistic missile portion added on in the past few months, and is regularly reviewed and updated.

The simulated screen was nevertheless a conversation piece far and wide.

“So we finally see the screen that the HI-EMA employee was looking at when he pushed the wrong button,” said Hawaii techie and social media enthusiast Ryan Ozawa on Facebook, “and it may very well be worse than we imagined. If this isn’t the opening slide for every User Experience (UX)/User Interface (UI)/Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) lecture delivered this week, I’ll be surprised. #MissileAlert.”

Seattle-based writer Devin Coldewey posted a story on Techcrunch today titled “Hawaii’s emergency alert interface looks straight out of the ’90s.”

“Just a jumble of contextless plain links, with drills and tests heedlessly mixed in,” he wrote. “It’s easy to see how this happened. We all click the wrong link now and then, but the consequence isn’t destabilizing an entire state. You can’t hit the back button on a million text messages and broadcast warnings.”

Even U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz weighed in with a tweet today: “This is not the kind of interface you would expect to see for something this important.”

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