Human error blamed for false ballistic missile threat sent to Hawaiian phones, TVs

Published: Jan. 13, 2018 at 12:05 PM MST
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Hawaiians got a terrifying wakeup alarm Saturday when they received an emergency alert stating there was an incoming missile.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency was quick to confirm the threat was erroneous, as was U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-D).

But for more than 15 minutes, confused and frightened Hawaiians wondered if they were imminent danger.

One man told 11 News his brother called to say goodbye because he didn't believe he and his children had time to get to a shelter.

A woman said she received a text from her family stationed in Hawaii telling her they loved her.

CBS affiliate KGMB reported people scrambling for shelters and their cars. Cell phones were overloaded and the EMA website appeared to crash, the station said.

It was human error that caused the mass panic, Hawaii's governor told CNN.

"It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the change over of a shift [at the Emergency Management Agency], and an employee pushed the wrong button," Gov. David Ige said.

That accident triggered an alert that went to hundreds of thousands of phones and televisions across the state.

The EMA sent out a second alert 40 minutes after the first alert advising that the initial alert was incorrect.

Sunday, they released a statement on the series of events and what is being done to prevent a reoccurrence. That statement can be read


TIMELINE OF EVENTS (Source: Hawaii Emergency Management Agency)

8:05 a.m.: A routine internal test during a shift change was initiated.  This was a test that involved the Emergency Alert System but no warning sirens.

8:07 a.m.: Warning test was triggered statewide

8:10 a.m.: State Adjutant Maj. Gen. Joe Logan confirmed with U.S. Pacific Command that there was no missile launch.  Honolulu Police Department is notified of the false alarm.

8:13 a.m.: State Warning Point issues cancellation of Civil Danger Warning Message, which would prevent any phones that were off or out of range when the alert went out from receiving it.

8:20 a.m.: The EMA issues public notification of cancellation on social media.

8:24 a.m.: Gov. Ige retweets the cancellation notice.

8:30 a.m.: Ige posts cancellation notice to his Facebook page.

8:45 a.m.: After getting authorization from FEMA Integral Public Alert and Warning System, the EMA issues a new alert stating the first alert was a false alarm.