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False Alarm Confirmed, No Missile Threat

Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

Hawai'i residents were stunned this morning by what turned out to be a false alarm of an incoming missile launch. Hawai'i Public Radio confirms there was never a threat. While details about how this happened continue to unfold, there is no danger to Hawai'i and there never was.

UPDATED: Human Error Caused Ballistic Missile False Alarm

At about 8:07 this morning, many residents and visitors received alerts on their cell phones about a missile attack. State and county emergency officials confirm, "There is no threat of missile launch at this time." 

An officer in the Hickam-based 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command confirmed there was never a threat.  


Shortly after 8:00 a.m. local time, smart phones around the Hawaiian Islands buzzed and rattled with a stark warning. The text read: "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT IN BOUND TO HAWAI'I. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."

But as it turned out, it was a mistake. No emergency sirens sounded and the emergency broadcast alert system was not activated. 

After meeting with Hawaii Emergency Management Agency officials, Govenor David Ige said the false alarm was caused by human error during a change in shift when an employee pushed the wrong button."

HEMA Administrator Vern Miyagi said there is a cancellation process that would have allowed the employee to send out a cancellation and it should have gone out right away. 

Although the state emailed that the alert was a mistake at about 8:25 a.m., they did not issue a phone alert correction until about 38 minutes after the initial mistake. 

"While I am thankful this morning's alert was a false alarm, the public must have confidence in our emergency alert system," said Gov. Ige in a statement," I am working to get to the bottom of this so we can prevent an error of this type in the future." 

Hawai'i lawmakers are demanding answers. 

"This system we have been told to rely upon failed and failed miserably today," said House Speaker Scott Saiki, "I am deeply troubled by this misstep that could have had dire consequences. Measures must be taken to avoid further incidents that caused wholesale alarm and chaos today."

"Clearly, government agencies are not prepared and lack the capacity to deal with emergency situations," said Rep. Saiki, "Apparently, the wrong button was pushed and it took over 30 minutes for a correction to be announced. Parents and children panicked during those 30 minutes."

Rep. Saiki went on to say the Hawai'i House of Representatives will immediately investigate what happened and "there will be consequences."

Senator Mazie Hirono issued the following statement on Twitter: "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."

The White House said President Donald Trump, who is in Florida, was briefed on the false alert.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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