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So, What Happened In Hawaii

The procedure at the Hawaiian Emergency Management Agency is to test their alert system at the shift change on the weekend. They have a “Test” button and a “Real” button. The “Real” button was pushed.

The lessons learned included: despite the fact that the system asked for a confirmation, it issued the warning without a confirmation [The stub was there but the routine to handle the lack of a confirmation wasn’t]. While the alert was cancelled within a few minutes, the cancellation wasn’t effective for over a half hour. Although the state didn’t activate its sirens, the military bases did, and there are enough military bases on Oahu to make the difference negligible. The alert was automated, but the cancellation essentially had to be done manually.

The EMA is already changing to a system requiring two-person alerts, and suspended tests until the system is fixed.

There needs to be an Emily Litella button.

Update: MSNBC interview with Vern Miyagi, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Administrator.

7 comments

1 Badtux { 01.16.18 at 12:41 pm }

Apparently it was just a pull down menu, one option of which was Test, and the other option of which was Alert. Let go of the mouse one microsecond too soon and you ended up sending half of Hawaii scrambling for air raid bunkers. My UI design peeps at work were practically rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter over this one.

Yeah, the lack of a Emily Litella button definitely was a Big Deal. The “Cancel” menu item merely quit sending out “We’re all gonna die!” messages, it didn’t send a “Never mind!” message. They didn’t even know how to send out a cancellation until they’d spent 20 minutes dialing through the FEMA phone tree to find the one person in all of FEMA who knew how to send it out.

2 Badtux { 01.16.18 at 12:43 pm }

A quote from one of my other IT peeps, not about this fiasco specifically, but many other enterprise software fiascos: “Enterprise software is dog food if dog food was designed by cats.”

3 Bryan { 01.16.18 at 5:46 pm }

The biggest problem in UI design is that the coders rarely know exactly what the users do and are creating from the design specification, but I personally hate the drop down menus in general because of the way the work in Windows and Amazon. Trying to get to my Amazon Prime video watchlist is a hemorrhoid. Every time I work out a path they change things. This is why I hate Windows 10 – things were changed just to present a different design, not to improve anything. Speaking of Win 10, it’s gone from making a cup of coffee to cooking dinner before the sucker finishes the boot cycle.

I don’t understand why the military reacted the way it did. The military should have nipped this in the bud, not fired up the sirens. It was the weekend, so maybe an Officer of the Day ‘exercised excessive caution’. Hell, there was less control on this than school closures for snow days in New York.

I stopped bidding on government RFPs because the description of the scope of the work sucked and you had to wait forever for your money, even worse than Hewlett Packard. The “cats” were outside consulting firms who wrote the RFPs but had no more understanding about what the users needed than the coders who were supposed to create it.

4 Badtux { 01.16.18 at 11:01 pm }

My guess is that some butterbar is going to remain a butterbar for a good long time.

It’s not just government RFP’s that suck. Right now we’re dealing with a major customer where IT and IT Security are getting into a major catfight over whether they’re going to be able to deploy our solution. IT already paid for a penetration test of our cloud infrastructure via white hat hackers (it bounced off like rubber) to prove to IT Security that our solution would work, and IT Security just sent us a big questionnaire asking us whether we complied with 5,000,000 different standards for insuring that big company IT never actually produces anything, which of course we don’t because we’re a small “agile” company, if we required a 20 page change document signed off by product managers yada yada every time we wanted to change a comma in our software we’d never get anything done. About the only reason we haven’t told them to go **** themselves is because they *did* pay for that penetration test, and are going to do a re-test once we fix some of the minor issues they uncovered (mostly debug statements that printed too much data into the customer Javascript console, thus possibly giving hackers enough information to attack the system). And now they want to trial an on-premise version of our product, which is *less* secure than the cloud product because the cloud product has all sorts of network and system hardening that can’t be done in an on-premise product because we have to fit into *their* network architecture, rather than into *ours*. Until we get that last bit of value out of them we’ll keep stringing them along…. but I’m getting a bad feeling that this is just a waste of our time. Sigh.

So yeah, not just government sucks. It seems to be a problem at a lot of big bureaucratic companies. SIGH.

5 Bryan { 01.17.18 at 8:53 pm }

Given the number of flag officers on Oahu who would have had their Saturday tee times scrambled by this false alarm, if it was an O1, I don’t see O2 or reenlistment in their future, but Shemya is a possibility.

The intra-corporate battles are worse than the battles with competitors. I have wasted too much of my business life dealing with different divisions of the same company. You have to draw a line and hold to it, because if the client is this much of a PITA when they have sought you out to buy your product or services, why believe that support is going to be profitable.

Oh, Dog, another set of standards worshipers. “Let’s screw up our business model so we can fly a flag saying we adhere to an artificial standard.”

You’re right, every large bureaucracy learns how to generate garbage RFPs. I think they all use the same incompetent consulting firms.

6 Kryten42 { 01.19.18 at 8:33 am }

Apparently… not everyone suffered for long. You could even say many eventually got a bang out of it! 🤭😏

Threat of nuclear apocalypse briefly puts a damper on Pornhub traffic

😆

7 Bryan { 01.19.18 at 8:22 pm }

Well, there are worse things you could do if you are going to die in the next half hour 😆