Hawaiians jarred by false alarm of ballistic missile threat

By Susan McFarland

Jan. 13 (UPI) -- A false alarm shook Hawaiians early Saturday as alerts mistakenly warned islanders of a ballistic missile threat.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Hawaii residents began posting screenshots of alerts they had received on their phones that said "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."


A tweet by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, confirmed the false alarm, saying it was sent out inadvertently and that she checked with state officials.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige told CNN the mistake was caused by someone pushing "the wrong button."

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He added that the human error happened as shifts were changing.

During a news conference, Vern Miyagi, the administrator of Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency, took the fall for the alert. Miyagi said it is his responsibility to oversee the system for such notifications and that the agency would take steps to prevent the mistake from happening again.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the alarms were sent out mistakenly.


"There is no missile threat," Lt. Commander Joe Nawrocki said. "We're trying to figure out where this came from or how this started. There is absolutely no incoming ballistic missile threat to Hawaii right now."

The alert sent people scrambling for shelters, overloaded cellphone services and crashed the Hawaii Emergency Management's website, Hawaii News Now reported. Warnings also appeared on television in the state.

The error confirmation was sent via Twitter within 15 minutes, but it took more than 40 minutes for emergency management officials to send the cellphone push notifications saying it was a false alarm.

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