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Lawmakers hold informational briefing on false missile warning

It’s the single event many still want answers to.

Nearly a week after the State’s false alarm, Hawaii lawmakers are putting the pressure on officials in charge. 

The governor, a pair of generals and HI-EMA’s Vern Miyagi were the targets of those questions.

Keep in mind, the investigation into that event that sent the state into panic is ongoing.

Still, lawmakers are pushing for more answers.

“What are the consequences of what happened? Will there be consequences because a lot of people are asking that question,” Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, chair of the committee on government operations said.

“We do have an investigation underway and once it is complete, we will take appropriate action,” Governor David Ige said.

State Lawmakers are firing off questions. Many – directed to Gov. Ige about what’s being done in response to Saturday’s missile alert mishap.

“Changes have already been implemented to make sure Saturday’s event will not be repeated,” Ige said.

Lawmakers want to know if the state would be liable for potential lawsuits from those whose health may have been affected by the scare.

The governor says, that’s a possibility.

Adding, it’s an issue that’s been identified and is being looked at in the investigation.

Lawmakers also questioning the credibility of the State’s Emergency Alert System.

“I would just like to remind all of you that in federal reviews of our emergency management system, the evaluations from sources have always said the state of Hawaii’s response to emergencies have been superb,” Ige said.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi is also a target of many questions…

“Do understand that this has to be fixed,” Miyagi said.

Miyagi referring to the false alert.

HI-EMA says it’s already implemented corrections to its system.

“We made a mistake on Saturday, and we are working through that mistake… You’ve said that… yes and I have an internal investigation to find out if there are any gaps in those internal controls, procedures, all aspects of how this occurred and when this is complete that will identify,” Major General Arthur Logan, director, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said.

Many are awaiting those results.

Until then, one senator says there’s still a takeaway from what’s already known.

“If nothing else as bad as it was what happened, it shows you what under the real case scenario should have happened and what it would have been and i think it shows community wide it would be chaos,” Sen. Clarence Nishihara, chair, committee on public safety, intergovernmental, military affairs said.

Friday’s briefing brought together 31 lawmakers – each one sounded off one concern after the other.

Everything from how well equipped Hawaii is to fending off missiles to ensuring alerts are multi-lingual.

“Our Current plans are to utilize AM and FM broadcast radio stations why didn’t you do that immediately,” Representative Cynthia Thielen said.

Thielen called out HI-EMA’s 15 minute delay in alerting media about Saturday’s false alarm.

The Windward Oahu lawmaker questions how accurate the agency’s safety slogan about staying tune. Because that morning, there was no information available on the radio.

“If there’s a nuclear attack, a nuclear burst, the EMP would kill all of your cell phones and the the stuff you normally use, AM-FM radio is the most reliable system,” Vern Miyagi, administrator, Hawai?i Emergency Management Agency said.

“When they goofed as they did and they may do that again, they’ve got to give the correct message out immediately. They didn’t do that this time and yet it’s in their own instructions as to what they are supposed to do so they failed us,” Thielen said.

Senator Brickwood Galuteria demanded to know more about the status of Hawaii’s missile defense systems should one be fired and about potential risks should a missile land beyond our shores.

“If it hits outside of Hawaii, are we in danger of a tsunami?” Major General Arthur Logan, director, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said. “We are likely in danger of a local tsunami. To what size, we don’t know.”

“I would like to learn more about where they are, how they’re deployed, what can be done, we have a 15 minute window and we got to shoot those things out of the sky,” Galuteria said.

There were also concerns raised about non-English speaking individuals that could not translate Saturday’s alert.

Rep. Glen Wakai suggested Federal Communications Commission officials consider sending alerts utilizing emoji characters.

“We’re all used to them. If I can send my friend a birthday cake on your special day or you can send an emoji that’s a tidal wave for a tidal wave, a missile if we’re under attack, a little seismic thing if there’s an earthquake, but seeing a simple resolution to help lay some misunderstanding for our visitors,” Wakai said.

A proposal to use emojis is currently before the FCC.

Videos that captured many in a frenzy after receiving the alert has some lawmakers also demanding government do more to educate the public.

“They were really terrifying things I saw myself on social media of what people were doing that were both disturbing and brilliant. The extent people will go to save their families has no bounds and that’s something we need to be able to tap into to help them prepare better because a lot of people acted out of desperation, not knowledge. We need to provide them with knowledge,” Rep. Matthew LoPresti said.

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