Federal Communications Commission launches full investigation

A full investigation into a false emergency alert which warned a ballistic missile was heading for Hawaii, according to the chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Residents received alerts to their phones at about 8.07am local time on Saturday saying “Ballistic missile threat inbound. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill”.

The message was also broadcast on television and caused utter panic on the islands before the alert was cancelled about 38 minutes later. Hawaiian Governor David Ige later told reporters an employee of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency mistakenly “pressed the wrong button” during a shift change.

The high-stake alert came just days after the FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the commission would vote to enhance the effectiveness of wireless emergency alerts, which have been in place since 2012.

Mr Pai said on Twitter the commission was launching a full investigation into the false emergency alert that was sent to Hawaii residents.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel added the commission had to find out what went wrong. Writing on Twitter, she said: “Emergency alerts are meant to keep us and our families safe, not to create false panic. We must investigate and we must do better.”

She praised the people of Hawaii for being “graceful and resilient” and added: “But I also know they never should have endured this false alert today. And I know like them I will hold my children a little bit closer tonight”.

The FCC is working to better target alerts to impacted people and is due to vote this month on a proposal to “more precisely target these alerts to affected communities”.

In a statement earlier this week, FCC chairman Mr Pai said the improved alerts will “lead Americans to take more seriously the alerts they receive on their mobile devices”.

Since 2012, the Wireless Emergency Alerts system has been used more than 33,000 times to warn people across the country of severe weather, evacuation orders, shelter-in place alerts and Amber…

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