(BIVN) – Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim stood side by side with Governor David Ige and Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara during a press conference on Oahu Tuesday, as the state released its All Hazards Preparedness Improvement Action Plan and Report in the wake of the false missile alert mistakenly issued on January 13, 2018.
“We are moving forward with a strategic vision that enables emergency managers in Hawaiʻi to identify gaps and vulnerabilities for handling all hazards,” said Governor Ige, who directed Hara to conduct the report after the international embarrassment that resulted in the resignation of previous Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency administrator Vern Miyagi. The employee who transmitted the emergency alert message was fired.
The report identified a breakdown in leadership and management at HI-EMA. “Gen. Hara’s report includes a number of observations and recommendations, including a request for funding,” the governor said.
“I’ll be asking the Legislature for more than $2 million right now to build capacity. It’s all about the safety and security of the people of Hawaiʻi.” said Gov. Ige.
“The report is written by and prepared as a roadmap for emergency management planners,” said Big. Gen. Hara, who stated his report focuses on preparations for any disaster, not only ballistic missile threats. “It could be used as a guide to help reshape how emergency management is organized and how resources are prioritized and allocated to respond to any hazard efficiently and effectively,” Hara added.
Mayor Kim was among seven core team members selected by Hara to deduce the reasons for the false alert and to come up with recommendations.
The report cites four significant contributing factors of the Jan. 13 fiasco:
1. A complete comprehensive annex or plan to address the Ballistic Missile Preparedness (BMP) threat had not been fully developed prior to commencement of missile alert siren testing and internal missile alert drills. This approach was contrary to HI-EMA’s established all-hazards approach and collaborative planning protocols. The response and recovery sections of the plan were minimally developed. The plan lacked details for sheltering, county coordination, and protocols for decision to send out all clear or false missile alert messages, e.g., interception, missile impact without effect to Hawaiʻi, etc. This also explains why public outreach was deficient in providing more comprehensive directions to citizens.
2. There is a misconception that Governor Ige and other elected officials are primarily responsible for timely warning and notification. Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes §127A-7 mandates that “. . . the State Warning Point [SWP] shall be continually staffed by [HI-EMA] to monitor warning systems and devices and shall have the ability to provide timely warning and notification to government officials, county warning points and emergency operations centers and, when directed, the general public.” During the 38 minute lag several people, including elected officials, attempted to get the false missile alert message out to the public as soon as possible. The SWP’s established Ballistic Missile Alert Checklist did not have a step to notify the HI-EMA Public Information Officer (PIO). The missing key step to notify the PIO contributed to the delay in rapidly informing the media and public.
3. The responsibility to identify requirements for the existing alert system and rapid notification remained with HI-EMA. The FEMA Authorized Originator Software Provider (FEMA AOSP), a service hosted web application, lacked features that could have prevented human error that resulted in the false missile alert. The software used to activate the Ballistic Missile Alert message lacks a “credentialed” two-person feature. Furthermore, not all shifts within the SWP mandated a two-person requirement to send Ballistic Missile Alert messages. A lack of efficient and reliable communications channels between the SWP, key state leadership, and the media clearly hampered rapid dissemination of emergency information.
4. Observations point to the improper management of HI-EMA. HI-EMA senior leadership lacked awareness of personnel issues within the SWP. Moreover, mid-level management failed to take appropriate personnel actions for employees who demonstrated poor performance; lack of knowledge; skills, and abilities to perform their duties to standard. Mid-level management also failed to inform senior leadership of the issues observed at the lower level units and sections within HI-EMA.
The report also offers a glimpse of Mayor Kim’s behind-the-scenes expressions of concern over the state’s plan to test the ballistic missile alert siren “without a comprehensive response and recovery plan”. From the time-line in the report:
September 18, 2017: Briefed Mayor Arakawa, Mayor Kim, and their staff on the state’s Ballistic Missile Preparedness Campaign. During this meeting and in an email sent to HIEMA on October 9, 2017 and a letter sent to HI-EMA on November 7, 2017, Mayor Kim voiced strong reservations about HI-EMA’s plan to test the ballistic missile alert siren without a comprehensive response and recovery plan. A decision was made to postpone November 1, 2017 siren test to December 2017.
“When the governor asked me to speak,” Mayor Kim said at Tuesday’s press conference, “I really wanted to know if he really wanted me in this. Because I will say what I would say. And I saw the report, read the report. And as I’ve told him this morning in closed doors, I thought this was a good report. A very comprehensive report. I don’t know how many hours he put in it. But I could have done it in one page.”
“I’m extremely pleased with this governor because I thought some of it would be touchy and would be kind of pussy-footed,” Kim told the media.
“The problem, to me, it was real simple of what happened. We have some management problems. And that has to be fixed. I wanted that to be emphasized and not tampered with,” Kim said.
The state is actively seeking a new administrator. Mayor Kim has offered his recommended name.