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State’s missile blunder triggers public mistrust, lawmakers say

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Vern Miyagi, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, answers questions about Saturday’s missile-alert mistake at a joint state House and Senate hearing today.

Following a public legislative question-and-answer session today with Gov. David Ige and emergency management officials on Saturday’s false missile alert, some state lawmakers say they aren’t convinced the necessary controls are in place to prevent a similar error.

“I do have concerns that the internal controls that supposedly were there — I’m not sure that, other than making some of these changes, that this kind of thing could not happen again. Maybe not the exact same thing, but something similar,” Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, said afterward.

“When I heard that this ‘drill’ had been run 26 times and that the people in charge didn’t recognize at all that something like this could have happened … Nothing was thought through as to guidance for how to deal with this thing before instilling fear in the public.”

Much of the two-and-a-half-hour briefing was a recap of what officials have already been saying since the mistake: That they’re sorry for the error and they are working to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“We will make changes as issues are identified,” Ige said of a report he’s tasked Hawaii National Guard Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara to draft with recommendations to improve the state’s emergency preparedness. An action plan is due in 30 days and a more comprehensive report in 60 days.

“Going forward, I have directed my cabinet and the (Hawaii) Emergency Management Agency to focus on engaging our entire community in preparedness efforts so everyone will be able to understand what they need to do to keep themselves and their families safe,” the governor said.

The governor and emergency management officials fielded questions from nearly 30 lawmakers who sit on the House Public Safety Committee; House Veterans, Military and International Affairs and Culture and the Arts Committee; and the Senate Government Operations and Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs committees.

“One of the biggest things that is concerning to all of us is that public trust and the public faith in our emergency management system have been harmed, hopefully not irreparably,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker. “Are there any policy recommendations you’re anticipating will be coming to the Legislature that will further the efforts to rebuild the trust?” she asked Ige.

The governor said there likely will be, but that he didn’t have any specifics.

“We have identified a number (but) I can’t tell you what that list is right now,” Ige said. He added that part of Hara’s efforts will be to reach out to stakeholders for feedback on “things that worked, things that didn’t work.”

For the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s full coverage of Hawaii’s missile alert scare, go to 808ne.ws/hawaiimissilescare.

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