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False ‘incoming missile’ alarm sent in Hawaii

An alarm warning the people of Hawaii of a missile was sent on January 13th, here’s what happened.

What+the+message+would+have+looked+like%2C+uploaded+to+Wikimedia+by+user+Dmartin969%0A
What the message would have looked like, uploaded to Wikimedia by user Dmartin969

What the message would have looked like, uploaded to Wikimedia by user Dmartin969

Brandon Ngo

Brandon Ngo

What the message would have looked like, uploaded to Wikimedia by user Dmartin969

Brandon Ngo, staff writter

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For residents of Hawaii, the notification of an incoming missile appeared on cell phones and TV screens on the 13th of January, a Saturday morning. “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER,” The alarm read. “THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”  Despite this, the warning was false.

As part of a drill, an employee of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) was supposed to send an alarm within the facility. Instead, the wrong option from a menu was chosen, as the alert didn’t require much in the way of confirmation. The message sent specified that a missile was on the way and that this was not a drill. This was done at 8:07, according to a HI-EMA timeline of events.

“Well, I don’t personally know how it impacted the people of Hawaii, but I did have two friends who were visiting there at the time and they were quite alarmed,” Mrs. Rebelo recalls. “One said she and her friend were very calm, called family and then went to the part of the hotel they were told to go to wait for further instruction.  And the other said that she and her husband and friends  huddled in the bathroom with the tv playing loudly in the other room so they could keep track of what was going on.” Writers online have also recorded their own accounts of what happened within 38 minutes of fear.

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Officials communicated via Twitter that there was no threat. Among these figures were Tulsi Gabbard, representative of Hawaii.

“HAWAII – THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE TO HAWAII. I HAVE CONFIRMED WITH OFFICIALS THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE.” – @TulsiGabbard

“NO missile threat to Hawaii.” – @Hawaii_EMA (reposted by Tulsi Gabbard)

Meanwhile, Governor David Ige faces criticism for his delayed response. He forgot his Twitter login according to outlets including the Washington Post, and so he could not join the others in spreading the word over social media. It was only officially corrected once a second message was sent out.

8:45 a.m. – After getting authorization from FEMA Integral Public Alert and Warning System, HIEMA issued a ‘Civil Emergency Message’ remotely. The following action was executed by the Emergency Alert System (EAS):

  1. EAS message over Local TV/Radio Audio Broadcast & Television Crawler Banner. ‘False Alarm. There is no missile threat to Hawaii.’ ‘False Alarm. There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. False Alarm.’
  2. Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) ‘False Alarm. There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii.’“ The timeline described.

People have been quick to point out technological flaws in the security of the agency. The option of sending the ‘real’ alert was too accessible. Some suggest requiring password confirmation, giving a preview of the actual message that would have been sent out, making the buttons more distinguishable; many different things that could have been implemented into this system.

These issues were addressed recently. One change made to the facility was that a second employee was required to activate the message. Additionally, if the threat was confirmed as a false alarm, a second message could be send to update Hawaii residents immediately.

After fearing for their lives, some are upset. Others see it was a wake-up call. There have been no reported deaths despite the panic in Hawaii, despite the panic caused by the threat.

About the Contributor
Brandon Ngo, Staff Writer
Brandon Ngo is a second-year journalism student at Gunderson High School. His interests include playing video games, biking, and making attempts to draw. His values include socializing with friends, going outside every once in awhile. He enjoys [rambling] about his favorite entertainment. He hopes to try out other forms of creative expression.
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