World

Hawaii: False emergency warning of ballistic missile attack triggers panic

14 Jan 2018 | By Krunali Shah
Was Hawaii under threat of a missile attack?

Earlier today, Hawaiians experienced a sense of extreme panic and relief in a span of half an hour. A mistaken emergency alert was sent to residents warning them of an imminent missile attack. An employee at the state emergency management agency reportedly pushed the "wrong button."

As the agency struggled to retract the warning, alarmed residents rushed to seek shelter.

Here's all about it.

In context: Was Hawaii under threat of a missile attack?

14 Jan 2018Hawaii: False emergency warning of ballistic missile attack triggers panic

DetailsFirst off, how was the "fake" emergency alert sent?

The alert was apparently sent during an employee shift change at Hawaii's emergency management agency. Its administrator Vern Miyagi called it a "human error."

He said the agency routinely tests its system. The employee thought he was conducting a test. He didn't realize he had transmitted an actual warning, despite a two-step process and a prompt "Are you sure you want to do this?"

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How did the residents react?

ResidentsHow did the residents react?

Hawaii has no automated system to notify Hawaiins about a false warning.

The alert read "EMERGENCY ALERT BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL." This was sent on mobile phones and aired on TV/radio.

From blocking windows with pulled-off closet doors to putting children and emergency supplies in the bathtub, Hawaiians obviously experienced a great fright.

OfficialsHow did officials react?

Miyagi didn't declare what action will be taken against the employee. He said the employee "feels terrible." Miyagi also took full responsibility for the event.

However, not everyone was so forgiving. Social media was inundated with strong reactions.

Governor David Ige said he was "angry and disappointed."

Meanwhile, other US government agencies weren't that bothered, with CIA's official accounts putting up irrelevant panda posts.

ProcedureHow does this emergency warning system work?

In recent times, North Korean President Kim Jong-un has been threatening to use his missile weapons system against US. This reportedly prompted Hawaii to test its Cold War-era nuclear attack sirens.

But, Hawaii does not have capabilities of its own. It relies on US military's verification system through its network of sensors to track missile activity and then warns Hawaiians.

CorrectionWhat corrective action will be taken?

Former Defense Secretary, William Perry warned that even a nuclear war could start without proper safeguards.

Now, state officials are suspending the tests until an investigation is conducted. They will also implement a two-person identification to avoid such instances.

Further, they are taking this opportunity to correct discrepancies in the system. Some sirens were erroneously triggered and some people didn't receive phone alerts.