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FEMA confirms state’s delay in call for guidance


    A phone is seen inside the State Warning Point at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency in July. The phone is a secure line that connects to PACOM directly in the event of any threats.

It took Hawaii emergency management 23 minutes to connect with the Federal Emergency Management Agency after it had triggered a false ballistic missile alert.

“The state called us that morning to discuss the false alert and to ask for technical guidance, which we provided during that call. We can confirm that the call came in at 8:30 am HST,” FEMA spokeswoman Jenny Burke, said in a statement today.

According to Saturday’s timeline, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee mistakenly broadcast a ballistic missile threat alert at 8:07 a.m. Just three minutes later, at 8:10 a.m., Maj. Gen. Joe Logan, state adjutant general, reached the U.S. Pacific Command and confirmed that the threat was false. A series of communications happened between HI-EMA officials and other public safety officials, and at 8:20 a.m. HI-EMA tweets, “No missile threat to Hawaii.”

But the agency mistakenly believed that it had to consult with FEMA to issue a retraction and took until 8:45 a.m. to issue official notification that the threat was false. That step, which FEMA has said wasn’t needed, is one factor in the lengthy delay, which caused 38 minutes of terror for some. Another factor was that HI-EMA did not have a retraction script in its computer menu.

FEMA said Tuesday that HI-EMA possessed the authority to cancel or retract the false warning without intervention or approval from FEMA. This approvals process was established “upfront,” when HI-EMA applied in 2012 for access to the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, the agency said.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said Tuesday that she has asked FEMA to work with Hawaii to ensure that the state gets clarity on the proper protocol and procedures for issuing and retracting an alert.

The Federal Communication Communications also confirmed that two Commission staffers will arrive in Honolulu today work with an FCC field agent in Hawaii on the investigation.

>> For the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s full coverage of Hawaii’s missile alert scare, go to

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