People in Hawaii woke up Saturday to emergency alerts sent to their mobile phones and broadcast on radio and TV warning of an imminent ballistic missile attack.
The alert turned out to be false and the result of human error.
For the more than 30 minutes it took before a corrected message was broadcast, the alert caused panic among many around the state.
But even before the corrected message went out, some Hawaii officials were tweeting that it was a false alarm, including Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at 1:24 p.m. and Sen. Brian Schatz’s retweet of a post from the state’s emergency management system at 1:25 p.m. that announced, “No missile threat to Hawaii.”
Schatz later wrote on Twitter that “the whole state was terrified.”
The false emergency alert apparently happened because “the wrong button was pushed,” Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki said in a statement.
“This system we have been told to rely upon failed and failed miserably today,” Saiki said. “I am deeply troubled by this misstep that could have had dire consequences.”
He added, “Apparently, the wrong button was pushed and it took over 30 minutes for a correction to be announced. Parents and children panicked during those 30 minutes.”
The emergency alert was sent to people’s mobile phones in Hawaii starting at about 8:07 a.m. local time with the startling words all in caps, “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”