False alert sent in Hawaii highlights preparations for missile launch

At a press conference hours after a false alert about a ballistic missile was sent, the administrator of Hawaii Office of Emergency Management (HI-EMA) said his team had been preparing for the worst-case scenario for months. “The threat is there,” said Vern Miyagi. 

Just after 8 a.m. on Saturday, an alert was sent to mobile phones and televisions warning of an incoming ballistic missile heading toward the island. Although the alert was determined to be sent in error shortly afterward, many scrambled for shelter and called loved ones to say goodbye.

Martha McKinnon, a teacher in Kailua, told CBSN “when you really see ballistic missile coming, this is not a drill, it’s nothing like you can imagine.” 

This smartphone screen capture shows a false incoming ballistic missile emergency alert sent from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency system on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018.

Caleb Jones / AP

Miyagi said that on Saturday at approximately 8:05 a.m., a routine test was initiated during a shift change. Although Miyagi said there is a message “are you sure you want to send,” it was sent anyway. In the future, Miyagi said, there will be two people to push that alert button. There will also be a cancellation message implemented.

The alert was sent to the Emergency Alert System, the Wireless Emergency Alert but not the sirens, although some sirens did go off. Hawaii Gov. David Ige said there will be an investigation into why the sirens sounded.

Miyagi emphasized that he regrets Saturday’s error, but he said “it brings the awareness up to this level.”

As North Korea has said it has nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles that can reach Hawaii, the state last month revived its Cold War-era siren system for an incoming attack.

“We believe that it is imperative that we be prepared for every disaster, and in today’s world, that includes a nuclear attack,” Ige said in Nov.

Miyagi said Saturday that…

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