'It's been utter hell for me': Hawaii button pusher who sparked nuclear missile panic reveals he is still getting death threats and claims he has been made a scapegoat by managers
04 February, 2018, 01:35
For the first time since the widespread panic sparked by that false missile warning that went out across Hawaii, the former emergency management employee who sent out the alert publicly explaining his respective on how it happened.
The man, believed to be in his fifties, said he did not want to be identified for safety reasons after receiving threats against his life.
Despite this, state officials say other workers present at the time clearly heard the word "exercise" repeated several times.
The man said he has had difficulty eating and sleeping, adding: "It's been hell for me the last couple weeks".
Speaking to NBC News, the former employee of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) instead blamed a systemic failure for the false alert on January 13 that sent thousands of terrified residents scrambling for cover.
"Reading the newspapers and seeing the false information out there, it's very hurtful and I feel a lot of guilt from what has happened", the former HI-EMA employee said. Push notifications were sent to cell phones belonging to Hawaiian residents and alert messages were played on local television. "I was convinced it was real". "I don't hear the beginning of the message coming across because what we're supposed to do is hit speakerphone on the line so everyone can hear the message". The worker had mistakenly believed drills for tsunami and fire warnings were actual events and colleagues were not comfortable working with him, the state said.
"I later found out that one of my coworkers thought it was real, but of course it was a drill call from our supervisor in the hallway", he said.
The ex-worker disputed that, saying he wasn't aware of any performance problems. "I didn't hear exercise at all in the message or from my co-workers".
By 8:20 a.m., Hawaii EMA tweeted there was "NO missile threat" to the state, but failed to send a phone alert for another 38 minutes, causing mass panic among people who weren't able to check social media.
"The protocols were not in place".
But in a few moments, he realized he had made a mistake and "became confused, he froze, and other employees had to take over his responsibilities", Oliveira said. Officials revealed that the employee who sent the alert was sacked on 26 January.
Two more employees have resigned, including the administrator of HI-EMA; a third employee will be suspended without pay, an official said Tuesday. The state did not name him. "It was a system failure and I did what I was trained to do". There's been problems with the procedures and the equipment and lack of training I think that the military should handle this, not the state.
The fallout over the incident didn't stop with the former worker. He said he was not trying to impede any investigations: "There really wasn't anything else to say".
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