A false ballistic missile threat alert was sent to Hawaii phones on Saturday morning, sending the state into a panic.
“It’s totally unacceptable,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. “There was anxiety across the state and it was terrifying. There was a lot of unnecessary pain and anxiety. It’s important to have accountability at the state level and the emergency management level in terms of what exactly what went wrong.”
The Hawaii Emergency Management agency confirmed the alert was false, but did not say how the error was sent out.
The ballistic missile warning that was issued is a FALSE alarm. Repeat FALSE alarm.
— Mayor Kirk Caldwell (@MayorKirkHNL) January 13, 2018
The alert sent people scrambling for shelters and their cars, and online for additional news.
Cell phones were overloaded while the Hawaii Emergency Management’s website appeared to crash. As of 8:50 a.m., the website had not yet been restored online.
The false alert was sent about 8 a.m. and confirmed to be sent in error within about 15 minutes.
Though the error confirmation was sent within about 15 minutes on Twitter, it took emergency management officials nearly 40 minutes to send out a ‘false alarm’ alert to cell phones – using the same mechanism that sent out the emergency warning in the first place.
A short time after the alert was sent out, authorities from the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii sent out a statement confirming that there was no missile threat.
“USPACOM has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii. Earlier message was sent in error,” said Commander David Benham. “State of Hawaii will send out a correction message as soon as possible.”
Though it was clearly sent in error, it is not yet known how the emergency alert message was first triggered, or by which agency the mistake was made. Residents and lawmakers across the state decried that such an incredible error was allowed to happen.
“This enormous mistake is unacceptable. Hawaii’s civil defense system failed Hawaii’s residents this morning,” said State Sen. Will Espero. “The checks and procedures in place to confirm and re-confirm the public notification process failed Hawaii.”
“This is an unacceptable mistake and it is being investigated!” added State Sen. J. Kalani English.
This story will be updated.
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