In early January, a text message alert went out to thousands of cell phones all over Hawaii that said, in all caps, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
The panic that ensued was predictable.
But it was all for nothing.
The alert, sent by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, was revoked 38 minutes after it was issued… and 38 minutes after residents had frantically tried to contact loved ones, sought shelter and said their goodbyes to each other.
“What happened today was totally unacceptable,” said Hawaii’s governor David Y. Ige. “Many in our community were deeply affected by this. I am sorry for that pain and confusion that anyone might have experienced.”
The issue arose because of human error.
“We fully felt like we were about to die,” said Allyson Niven, who lives in Kailua-Kona. She said her first instinct was to gather her family together. “I drove to try to get my kids even though I knew I probably wouldn’t make it, and I fully was visualizing what was happening while I was on the road. It was awful.”
Even tourists were caught up in the mass hysteria.
“All the buses stopped, and people came running out of the ranch and said, ‘Just sit still for a minute. Nobody get off the bus,’” said Ray Gerst, who was vacationing with his wife for the couple’s anniversary.
Vern Miyagi, the administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said that an employee mistakenly pushed a button to send out the alert. When the computer asked the employee if he was sure he wanted to send the message, the employee clicked “Yes.”
As soon as officials discovered the mistake, they revoked the alert. Highway signs also read “Missile alert in error – There is no threat.”
What Do You Think?
Did you hear about the false alarm, and what do you think of the issue? Do you feel that this is a wake-up call to all of us to be more prepared, or is the threat of a nuclear attack something you just can’t prepare for? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Twitter feed or on Facebook.