Hawaiians received a false alarm on Saturday warning of
an inbound ballistic missile and causing instant, widespread
The alert was apparently caused by an employee at
Hawaii’s Emergency Management
Agency pushing the wrong button by
A second alert clarifying that there was no missile
threat to Hawaii did not come until 38 minutes after the
initial false alarm.
Residents and vacationers in Hawaii awoke Saturday morning to a
stunning emergency alert blaring across
the screens of their smartphones: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT
INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
There was no missile. The alert was a false alarm, the Hawaii’s
US senators said on Twitter as they rushed to tamp down the
hysteria that ensued. The alert was sent out when an employee mistakenly pressed the
“wrong button” during a shift change at Hawaii’s Emergency
Management Agency, Hawaii Gov. David Ige later said.
But it was 38 minutes before another alert was sent out,
clarifying there was “no missile threat or danger to the State of
Hawaii.” In those minutes, people in Hawaii, fearing for their
lives, sought shelter and contacted their loved ones.
A news anchor from Houston, Texas, who was in Honolulu, tweeted the series of panicked
text messages she had received from friends and family.
“My mom and sister were crying,” she tweeted.
This was my phone when I woke up just now. I’m in Honolulu, #Hawaii and my family is on the North Shore. They were hiding in the garage. My mom and sister were crying. It was a false alarm, but betting a lot of people are shaken. @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/m6EKxH3QqQ
— Sara Donchey (@KPRC2Sara) January 13, 2018
Matt LoPresti, a state representative, told CNN in an emotional
interview that he and his family sheltered in their bathroom
after receiving the alert.
“I was sitting in the bathtub with my children, saying our
prayers,” he said. “We took it as seriously as a heart attack …
I’m extremely angry right now.”
He continued: “Why does it take 38 minutes for us to get a false
alarm notice? … That’s completely unacceptable.
An MSNBC producer tweeted the text messages she
had received from a friend whose relatives had been caught in
traffic as the alert went out.
“It was mass chaos people getting out of cars and running and
looking at the sky. Other cousin was in the airport and people
were sobbing,” one text message read.
A big issue with today’s false alarm: how long it took for an official alert to go out saying it was, in fact , a false alarm.
I received this text from a dear friend describing her family in Hawaii’s experience + how tweets were what revealed there was no real threat. Scary. pic.twitter.com/s7CovtD9wi
— Lisa Feierman (@lisathefeierman) January 13, 2018
Retired military captain Mike Staskow described to The New York
Times the dilemma of not knowing what to do or where to go.
“I was running through all the scenarios in my head, but there
was nowhere to go, nowhere to pull over to,” he said.
Washington Post social media editor Gene Park tweeted out a message from
his friend in Hawaii, who said he was in his car when the alert
came and quickly had to decide where to drive out of several
locations his family members were spread across, fearing he
wouldn’t reach them in time.
“I chose to go home to the two little ones I figured it was the
largest grouping of my family. Knowing I likely wouldn’t make it
home in time,” his message read. “I was tearing up South Street
to the freeway when I heard it was a mistake. F— you Hawaii Civil
My friend in Hawaii got the alert and had to quickly choose between which members of his family he would spend his last moments on Earth with because they were ALL too far apart from each other. He had to make the difficult choice of going immediately to his youngest children. pic.twitter.com/n8LNPiVscP
— Gene Park (@GenePark) January 13, 2018
Hawaii officials were solemn in the hours after the incident,
vowing to investigate why the mistake had occurred and ensure it
never happens again.
“We’ve implemented change already to assure that it becomes a
redundant process so that it won’t be a single individual
[responsible for issuing alerts],” Ige told media. “There’ll be
at least two people that would be involved to initiate the
He added that the 38-minute interval between the false alarm and
the correction was due to the “interval that we had to manually
go through the process to provide notification on the smartphones