‘Sorry, Wrong Button’: False Missile Alert Sparks Chaos in Hawaii

People scrambled to say their final “I love yous” and prepared to die. Then they received the second alert. 

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A push alert that warned of a ballistic missile heading straight for Hawaii and sent residents into a full-blown panic on 13 January was issued by mistake, state emergency officials said. The emergency alert, which was sent to cellphones just before 8:10 AM local time, read:

People scrambled to say their final “I love yous” and prepared to die. Then they received the second alert. 
A combination photograph shows screenshots from a cell phone displaying an alert for a ballistic missile launch and the subsequent false alarm message in Hawaii. 
(Photo: Reuters) 

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted that there was threat about 10 minutes later. But a revised push alert stating there was no threat went out sometime after that. Agency spokesman Richard Repoza confirmed it was a false alarm.

The incident prompted defense agencies including the Pentagon and the US Pacific Command to issue the same statement, that they had “detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii.”

Michael Kucharek, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said NORAD and the US Northern Command are still trying to verify what happened in Hawaii — but that “NORAD did not see anything that indicated any sort of threat to Hawaii.” NORAD is a US-Canada joint command that conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning to defend North America.

The White House said US President Donald Trump, who is in Florida, was briefed on the false alert. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said it “was purely a state exercise.”

The alert caused a tizzy on the island and across social media.

People scrambled to say their final “I love yous” and prepared to die. Then they received the second alert. 
An electronic sign reads “There is no threat” in Oahu, Hawaii, US, after a false emergency alert.
(Photo courtesy: Instagram/@sighpoutshrug)

Full Scale Investigation Launched

The US Federal Communications Commission said it was launching a full investigation into a false emergency alert. The FCC has jurisdiction over the emergency alert system. Earlier this week, Pai said the FCC would vote at its January meeting to enhance the effectiveness of wireless emergency alerts, which have been in place since 2012.

CNN reported Hawaiian Governor David Ige told reporters the mistake was the result of human error and someone at the state emergency management agency pushed the “wrong button” during a shift change. Wireless carriers do not prepare or write the alerts but they run simultaneously on all networks.

The FCC is working to better target alerts to impacted people and will vote this month on a proposal to “more precisely target these alerts to affected communities.”

I deeply apologize for the trouble and heartbreak that we caused.
Vern Miyagi, administrator of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency, speaking to AFP

(With inputs from Reuters and AP)

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Topics:  Hawaii   Missile Launch 

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