Hawaii residents receive ‘missile threat,’ told to seek shelter — but officials call it a ‘false alarm’

Residents in Hawaii received an emergency warning on their phones Saturday warning them of a “ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii” and were told to seek shelter. But now, officials are calling the warning a “false alarm.”

What happened?

Shortly after 8 a.m. Hawaiian Standard Time, residents in the 50th U.S. state received the alarming message. Immediately, people began tweeting screenshots of the message. The alert was similar to other emergency messages sent out for amber alerts and severe weather notifications.

“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” the alert read.

Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill. pic.twitter.com/tlJYNwCr1A

— Ryan Ozawa (@hawaii) January 13, 2018

A CNN producer explained that when people saw the alert, they became very nervous and began searching for suitable shelter. Despite the message, he said that air raid sirens on the islands did not go off.

However, officials now say the alert was just a “false alarm.”

What did they say?

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) quickly tweeted that she had confirmed there was no real missile threat.

HAWAII – THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE TO HAWAII. I HAVE CONFIRMED WITH OFFICIALS THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE. pic.twitter.com/DxfTXIDOQs

— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 13, 2018

The state’s emergency management agency also confirmed there was no threat:

NO missile threat to Hawaii.

— Hawaii EMA (@Hawaii_EMA) January 13, 2018

The agency’s spokesman, Richard Repoza, told Fox News the alert was a false alarm and the agency was working to determine what triggered the alert. However, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said the mistake was caused by “human error.”

Hawaiian Gov. David Ige later told CNN: “It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the change over of a shift and an employee pushed the wrong button…The warning went out to cell phones, Television and radio got the emergency alert.”

Was a follow-up message sent?

According to the Washington Post, a second emergency alert was sent to Hawaiians informing them of the error.

“There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii,” the follow-up alert stated. “Repeat. False Alarm.”

Two important questions:

  1. If it really was a simple mistake, why was the mistake so easy to make? Why aren’t there additional safeguards to alerting an entire state of a missile strike?
  2. Why did it take officials nearly 40 minutes to send a follow-up alert confirming no missile threat?

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