‘This is not hap­pen­ing to­day’ False mis­sile at­tack alarm rat­tles Hawai­ians, tourists


HONOLULU — A push alert that warned of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile head­ing straight for Hawaii and sent res­i­dents into a full­blown panic Satur­day was is­sued by mis­take, state emer­gency of­fi­cials said.

The emer­gency alert, which was sent to cell­phones just be­fore 8:10 a.m., said in all caps, “Bal­lis­tic mis­sile threat in­bound to Hawaii. Seek im­me­di­ate shel­ter. This is not a drill.” The Hawaii Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency tweeted that there was no threat about 10 min­utes later. But a re­vised push alert stat­ing there was no threat went out some­time af­ter that.

Agency spokesman Richard Re­poza con­firmed it was a false alarm and the agency is try­ing to de­ter­mine what hap­pened.

The in­ci­dent prompted de­fense agen­cies in­clud­ing the Pen­tagon and the U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand to is­sue the same state­ment, that they had “de­tected no bal­lis­tic mis­sile threat to Hawaii.”

Michael Kucharek, spokesman for the North Amer­i­can Aero­space De­fense Com­mand in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said NORAD and the U.S. North­ern Com­mand are still try­ing to ver­ify what hap­pened in Hawaii — but that “NORAD did not see any­thing that in­di­cated any sort of threat to Hawaii.”

NORAD is a U.S.-Canada joint com­mand that con­ducts aero­space warn­ing, aero­space con­trol and mar­itime warn­ing to de­fend North Amer­ica.

The White House said Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who is in Florida, was briefed on the false alert. White House spokes­woman Lind­say Wal­ters said it “was purely a state ex­er­cise.”

The alert caused a tizzy on the is­land and across so­cial me­dia.

At the PGA Tour’s Sony Open on Oahu, Wa­ialae Coun­try Club was largely empty and play­ers were still a few hours from ar­riv­ing when the alert showed up. The tour­na­ment staff urged the me­dia cen­ter to evac­u­ate. A lo­cal ra­dio show from the club­house, next to glass win­dows that over­look the Pa­cific, kept broad­cast­ing. Staff mem­bers at the club streamed into the club­house and tried to seek cover in the locker room, which was filled with the play­ers’ golf bags, but in­stead went into the kitchen.

Sev­eral play­ers took to Twit­ter.

“Just woke up here in Hawaii to this lovely text. Some­body can ver­ify this?” tweeted Emil­iano Grillo of Ar­gentina.

Justin Thomas, the PGA Tour player of the year, tweeted, “To all that just re­ceived the warn­ing along with me this morn­ing ... ap­par­ently it was a ‘mis­take’?? hell of a mis­take!! Haha glad to know we’ll all be safe.”

In Honolulu, Jaime Malapit, owner of a hair sa­lon, texted his clients that he was can­celling their ap­point­ments and was clos­ing his shop for the day. He said he was still in bed when the phone started go­ing off “like crazy.” He thought it was a tsunami warn­ing at first.

“I woke up and saw a mis­sile warn­ing and thought ‘no way.’ I thought ‘No, this is not hap­pen­ing to­day,’” Malapit said.

He was still “a lit­tle freaked out” and feel­ing para­noid even af­ter hear­ing it was a false alarm.

Richard Ing, a Honolulu at­tor­ney, was do­ing a con­struc­tion project at home when his wife told him about the alert.

He dug his phone out and had con­firmed he had the same alert. At­tempts to find fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on the tele­vi­sion or ra­dio didn’t pro­vide fur­ther in­for­ma­tion, but then he saw on Twit­ter that it was a false alarm.

While he was try­ing to con­firm, his wife and chil­dren were prepar­ing to evac­u­ate in case they needed to move to safer ground.

Af­ter find­ing out it was a mis­take, Ing tried to find some hu­mor in the sit­u­a­tion.

“I thought to my­self, it must be some­one’s last day at work or some­one got ex­tremely up­set at a su­pe­rior and ba­si­cally did this as a prac­ti­cal joke,’ he said. “But I think it’s a very se­ri­ous prob­lem if it wasn’t that, or even it was, it shows that we have prob­lems in the sys­tem that can cause ma­jor dis­rup­tion and panic and anx­i­ety among peo­ple in Hawaii.”

Oth­ers were out­raged that such an alert could go out in er­ror.

Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted the false alarm was “to­tally in­ex­cus­able” and was caused by hu­man er­ror.


This smart­phone screen cap­ture shows a false in­com­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile emer­gency alert sent on Satur­day from the Hawaii Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency sys­tem.

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