Hawaii missile alert: False alarm warns residents of “ballistic missile threat”

HONOLULU — Hawaii emergency management officials said an alert sent to mobile phones and televisions warning of an incoming ballistic missile to Hawaii on Saturday was a false alarm. The emergency alert sent to cellphones said, “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

Vern Miyagi, the administrator for the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), said in a press conference around noon Hawaiian time that his team was responsible for the error. According to Miyagi, the error happened during a shift change and at 8:07 a.m., “the wrong button was pushed” during the internal drill. 

According to Miyagi, by 8:10, officials started the recall and cancellation process — but there is no way to stop messages that have already been sent out. At 8:13 a.m., the state warning point issued a cancellation to prevent any more messages from going out. By 8:24 a.m., Gov. David Ige retweeted a message of the cancellation message.

An image of the false  emergency alert sent from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency system on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018.

CALEB JONES / AP

Although Ige said no one had authorized the use of the sirens, there were sirens. 

Miyagi and Ige said they will be implementing changes to make sure it won’t be a single individual and it will be at least two people sending out the alert. But Miyagi said there is a screen that says “are you sure you want to do this?” 

“It’s a human error we are going to fix,” Miyagi said, but he warned his team has spent the past couple of months preparing for the worst-case scenario in case of nuclear weapons.

“The threat is there,” Miyagi said. “If this goes out, there will be a 12-14 minute warning for an actual event.” 

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesman Richard Repoza said it’s a false alarm and that the agency is trying to determine what happened. 

The incident prompted defense…

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