NEW YORK, Jan 14 (APP):: People in the U.S. state of Hawaii were sent scrambling Saturday ‘for more than 30 minutes’ after an emergency alert notification warned of a ballistic missile threat, which turned out to be an error.
A flurry of tweets, often with screenshots of the message, appeared to pop up on cell phones, warning, “Ballistic Missile Threat Inbound To Hawaii. Seek Immediate Shelter. This Is Not A Drill.”
Television and radio broadcasts across the state were interrupted with a recorded emergency message instructing people to stay indoors.
“If you are outdoors seeking immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building while laying on the floor. We’ll announce when the threat has ended. This is not a drill!”
The message sent people running towards shelters — panic scenes that were shown live on television.
Thirty-eight minutes later, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency public information officer Richard Rapoza said the alert was sent in error.
“What happened was … during shift changes (with) outgoing and incoming staff, somebody selected the wrong item on a computer. It was user error,” Rapoza said.
The false alert came amid high international tensions over North Korea’s development of ballistic nuclear weapons.
Governor David Ige told a news conference he was ‘angry and disappointed’ over the incident, apologized for it and said the state would take steps to ensure it never happens again. “What happened today was totally unacceptable,” the Democratic governor said.
Ige said the alert was sent during an employee shift change at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, and that the state had no automated process to get out the word that it was a false alarm. Vern Miyagi, the agency’s administrator, called it ‘human error’. “An employee pushed the wrong button,” Ige said.
President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident in person by Deputy National Security Adviser Ricky Waddell and later by White House chief of staff John Kelly, in addition to speaking to national security adviser HR McMaster, a White House official said.