US & World

False ballistic missile alert freaks out Hawaii

The north shore of Oahu in Hawaii.
The north shore of Oahu in Hawaii.
Photo by davidd/puuikibeach via Flickr Creative Commons

Hawaiians and tourists alike were shaken shortly after 8 a.m. HST when a push notification alerted those in the state to a false missile threat, causing an immediate panic. It was a false alarm.

House Speaker Scott Saiki says someone pushed the wrong button at 8:07 a.m. local time, sending an alert to cellphone users across the islands.

The emergency alert said, in all caps, "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

At 8:13 a.m., Maj. Gen. Joe Logan, head of the Emergency Management Agency, confirmed with U.S. Pacific Command that there was no missile launch and notified Honolulu police.

Six minutes after that, state officials issued a cancellation that prevented the message from being sent to phones that hadn't already received it.

At 8:20 a.m., the Emergency Management Agency posted on Facebook and Twitter that the notice was cancelled. 

safe tweet

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also tweeted that it was a false alarm.

tulsi tweet

State officials finally sent a cancellation of the warning to cell phones at 8:45 a.m.

Saiki took emergency management officials to task for taking 30 minutes to issue the correction, prolonging the panic.

He said in a statement that the system Hawaii residents have been told to rely on failed miserably and that the Hawaii House of Representatives will begin an immediate investigation.

Saiki said, "Clearly, government agencies are not prepared and lack the capacity to deal with emergency situations."

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber (top) fly with South Korean jets over the Korean Peninsula during a South Korea-U.S. joint live fire drill on July 8, 2017 in Korean Peninsula, South Korea.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber (top) fly with South Korean jets over the Korean Peninsula during a South Korea-U.S. joint live fire drill on July 8, 2017 in Korean Peninsula, South Korea.
Handout/Getty Images

Cindy McMillan, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige confirmed to the Associated Press that it was human error, but she didn't have further details.