This is a test (or not?)

hand pressing red button

On Saturday, January 13, 2018 “Someone clicked the wrong thing on the computer,” an official from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency later stated.

It caused a major reaction.



Millions of people believed they, or loved ones, may soon be experiencing their last day on earth.


A mistake occurred during a shift-change drill that takes place three times a day at the emergency command post, according to a spokesman for the agency.

The button sent out an early-morning emergency alert mistakenly warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack on Hawaii.

The message was dispatched to cellphones across the otherwise serene Aloha State, setting off widespread panic.

The alert, coming from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, was revoked 38 minutes after it was issued.

But the damage was done.

But, in hindsight, there are lessons we can pull from this incident.

What can be done to prevent an error of this magnitude in the future?

As a result of the error, Hawaii EMA said a “cancellation template” would be created to make it easier to fix mistaken alerts. A new procedure was instituted the same day requiring two people to sign off before any such alert is sent.

That’s a great start.

The FCC also found the government of Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the transmission of a false alert.

When programming, one should consider clear, unmistakable commands for its users. And even going as far as limiting access to only thoroughly trained and experienced users.

Still, accidents may occur. But in the Hawaii case, reportedly the “Alert” command and the “Test Alert” command were side-by-side in a drop-down box.

Probably not wise programming, huh? Even the most experienced user could “slip.”

Having an emergency plan to revoke an error keystroke can save a lot of headaches.

Your programming mistake may not send a ballistic missile alert across your office. But the lessons learned here and from other’s mistakes could certainly prevent one coming from your boss’ desk to yours.

Suggestion: Take some time to discuss this event at your next office meeting. Having the discussion will likely spark great communication, and help keep everyone more aware of their respective roles, especially in dealing with issues of security.