(Adds details on false alert, background on drill)
WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Tuesday faulted Hawaii's handling of a false alert of a missile attack in January, saying the employee who issued the warning mistakenly believed an attack was in progress.
The false alarm, which went uncorrected for 38 minutes after being transmitted to mobile phones and broadcast stations, caused widespread panic across the Pacific islands state.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission blamed the error in part on a miscommunication and a lack of supervision of a drill by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to practice for the event of a real attack.
The employee who transmitted the alert said in a written statement to Hawaii that he or she believed it was an actual alert, rather than a drill, and clicked yes in response to a prompt that read: "Are you sure that you want to send this Alert?," the FCC said in a presentation.
The drill recording did not follow the standard script for a drill but included the phrase: "This is not a drill." It ended with the phrase, "Exercise, exercise, exercise." The officer who issued the alert heard "This is not a drill" but did not hear "Exercise, exercise, exercise," he told Hawaii in a written statement.
Hawaii's governor has said the employee pressed the wrong button by mistake.
The FCC said it had been unable to interview the employee who issued the alert. The FCC said "a combination of human error and inadequate safeguards contributed to the transmission of this false alert." It also said Hawaii's "lack of preparation for how to respond to this transmission of a false alert" was largely responsible for the 38-minute delay in correcting it.
Hawaii plans to issue a separate report later on Tuesday. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrew Hay)