Hawaiians Freak After Seeing Ominous Alert Appear on Phones


Given Kim Jong Un’s constant threats to launch one of his projectiles somewhere near one of the United States’ constituent parts located in the Pacific Ocean, residents of islands where the star-spangled banner flies have been justifiably nervous.

So, imagine the panic when residents of our lone state in the Pacific — Hawaii — received an alert warning them of an imminent attack.

According to Stars and Stripes, hundreds of thousands of residents of the Aloha State were greeted with a missile strike warning on their cell phones early Saturday.

The warning came from a system that’s part of Hawaii’s early warning system for a possible North Korean nuclear attack.

At roughly 8 a.m. local time, cell phones across the archipelago received this message sent by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, or HI-EMA: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

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Well, I’ll say this much: I don’t think too many people in Hawaii needed their morning cup of coffee after that one.

The reaction was immediate and predictable: a freak-out. “Some people abandoned cars on the highway and others gathered in the interiors of their homes to wait for what seemed like the inevitable, a blast that would cause widespread death and destruction,” Stars and Stripes reported.

However, “(n)ot all mobile phones got the urgent warning, however, and 10 minutes into the alert, the streets of Waikiki Beach appeared calm with tourists strolling and children playing.

“Adding to the confusion was the fact that a state-wide civil defense siren for a missile attack did not sound,” the report added. “Hawaii reinstituted the Cold War-era siren two months ago as tensions ratcheted up with North Korea, which has been testing ballistic missiles and at times threatened to launch one at Hawaii or Guam.”

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Eventually, after 38 minutes, a second text was sent out confirming that the whole thing was a false alarm.

“I deeply apologize for the trouble and heartbreak we caused today,” HI-EMA administrator Vern Miyagi said, according to NBC News.

“This is my team. We made a mistake. We are going to process this and study this to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Miyagi confirmed that the employee who had pressed the wrong button on the computer had even clicked through a redundancy screen designed to prevent errors like this.

While it took the government 38 minutes to rectify the problem, other sources confirmed that the tweet was a false alarm far earlier. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat, tweeted just 12 minutes after the text that it was an error.

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Meanwhile, Hi-EMA was able to cancel the message just six minutes after it was sent, which meant it didn’t go out to more recipients. While the agency managed to put notices on Facebook and Twitter to the effect that the message was an accident, no text was sent out to those who had received the message until much later.

“HI-EMA has already taken measures to ensure that an incident such as the one that occurred this morning does not happen again,” the agency said in a statement.

“HI-EMA has also started a review of cancellation procedures to inform the public immediately if a cancellation is warranted. We understand that false alarms such as this can erode public confidence in our emergency notification systems. We understand the serious nature of the warning alert systems and the need to get this right 100% of the time.”

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture