(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Hawaii receives false ballistic missile warning

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency confirmed that there was no missile en route


Nicole Karlis
January 13, 2018 7:50PM (UTC)

Hawaii experienced a terrifying false alarm on Saturday morning. An emergency alert was sent to cell phones urging people to take shelter because there was a ballistic-missile threat.

"BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL," the emergency alert said, according to CNN.

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The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency quickly confirmed on Twitter that there was no immediate threat.

The Hawaii EMA’s Administrator Vern Miyagi told CNN that he was headed to the agency’s center to find out why the false alert was sent out. "The warning was a mistake," he told CNN.

Hawaiian lawmakers have taken to Twitter to confirm that alert was indeed false, mentioning the fear and panic it caused.

“We need to understand how a serious error like this happened because people react to protect their families, especially in Hawaii where we live with the reality of a nuclear threat across the Pacific. The panic and fear created by this false alarm was very dangerous,” Representative Colleen Hanabusa tweeted.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono urged officials to get to the bottom of what happened, also adding that it was a false alarm.

“Today’s alert was a false alarm. At a time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to the community is accurate. We need to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never happens again,” Hirono tweeted.

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Senator Brian Schatz called the false alarm “totally inexcusable.”

“What happened today is totally inexcusable. The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process,” he said on Twitter.

Inexcusable it was— especially in a time when tensions are high regarding a nuclear threat from North Korea.

Hawaii has been taking steps to warn people about a possible attack.  In November, the Hawaii EMA announced it was preparing to conduct monthly tests of a siren warning system. “Beginning December 1, 2017, monthly tests of the statewide warning siren system will include a newly-activated Attack Warning Tone, intended to warn Hawaii residents of an impending nuclear missile attack,” the statement said.

The statement didn’t mention anything about a text message alert though.

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Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a news writer at Salon. She covers health, science, tech and gender politics. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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