Hawaii Emergency Agency Worker Says Was Sure Attack Was Real

The employee who sent out a false missile alert in Hawaii earlier this month said he honestly thought the island was under alert

The emergency management worker in Hawaii responsible for sending out a mistaken alert last month warning of an incoming missile said Friday that he was convinced the threat was real and was "100 percent sure" at the time that he was doing the right thing.

The former state employee responsible for sending out the emergency ballistic missile alert that froze the state of Hawaii for 38 minutes last month said that he felt awful about what happened.

"I still feel very badly about it. It was like a body blow", he added.

His managers knew for years he was struggling to do his job but continued to renew his contract, said officials.

"I was 100 percent sure that it was the right decision, that it was real", the man said. He mistakenly sent out a warning of an impending missile attack.

While starting a Saturday shift at the emergency operations center in a former bunker in Honolulu's Diamond Head crater on January 13, the man said, a co-worker took a phone call over the U.S. Pacific Command secure line that sounded like a real warning, he said.

That day, while logging into his workstation, "we received a call", he said. The man said he did not hear the beginning of the message that said "exercise, exercise, exercise". The supervisor played a simulated missile notice that mimicked an actual message from the US military's Pacific Command and warned worker of the fake threat.

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According to the Federal Communications Commission, measures have been taken by the agency to avoid a repeat of the incident. It was a sense of urgency to put it in place as soon as possible.

The button pusher say he's been dealing with the fallout and calls it an utter hell - causing him problems with eating, sleeping and is now on medication. Officials revealed that the employee who sent the alert was sacked January 26. The state did not name him.

But the missile drill mistake was not the officer's first mishap, authorities said.

Two more employees have resigned, including the administrator of HI-EMA; a third employee will be suspended without pay, an official said Tuesday. "I felt that myself", said the man, who was not named or shown fully during the interview with NBC's Lester Holt.

Testing of the alert system began in November and protocols were constantly changing, he said. 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.

A Hawaii state department of defense spokesman, Lt Col Charles Anthony, declined to comment on what the former worker said. He said he was not trying to impede any investigations: "There really wasn't anything else to say".

He said the employee was repeatedly "counseled and corrected" for his past lapses and was allowed to work at the alert system, despite qualms from his colleagues.

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