Man who sent missile false alarm reassigned

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee who set off a statewide panic on Saturday morning by sending out a false alarm about an incoming ballistic missile has been temporarily reassigned, but there are no plans to fire him or identify him publicly, a state official said.

The employee, who has worked for the HI-EMA for 10 years, sent the missile alert to cellphones across the state by picking the wrong option on his computer for a routine drill, and then confirming his choice, according to Richard Rapoza, the agency’s public information officer.

“We’re not going to take action till we have all the facts,” Rapoza said, adding that the employee had been temporarily reassigned to a part of the agency’s emergency operations center where he does not have access to the warning system. Rapoza declined to describe the employee’s new duties.

During the 38 minutes it took the agency to send a corrective alert rescinding the warning on Saturday, residents and tourists in a state that was already on edge over escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea frantically said their goodbyes and took shelter.

Rapoza said he doubted that the agency would ever publicly identify the employee, who he said “feels terrible, as you can imagine.”

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