‘Human error’ result in false missile emergency alert in Hawaii

Chris Allen BrownAssociate Editor

Ever wondered what would happen if an emergency official pressed the wrong button?

Look no further than Hawaii’s direction.

Last weekend, a civil defense employee in the United States’ 50th state pushed the wrong button and sent out an emergency alert to residents’ cellphones about an incoming missile threat. The alert read “BALLISITC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” This threat, however, was later deemed false.

“Even after learning it was a mistake I felt maybe they were just saying that so we all wouldn’t

panic,” Lori Citro of Newark, Delaware told CNN. Citro’s daughter, Kelsey, lives in Hawaii. “I feel like if they are practicing this drill it’s because it’s a possibility. Maybe they were really expecting an attack and it was thwarted at the last minute … I am still afraid.”

With threats from North Korea, Hawaii, according to CNN, started a monthly testing of a nuclear warning siren system in December to alert residents of possible nuclear missile strikes. The state is 4,661 miles from North Korea and would only have roughly a 20-minute warning before a strike would hit the islands. The tests are the first of their kind for Hawaii, which are home to 1.4 million people, since the Cold War concluded.

It took Hawaii emergency officials 38 minutes to notify the state’s residents that the alert was

a false alarm.

“It’s a human error we are going to fix,” said Vern Miyagi, the administrator for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, in a press conference. “The threat is there. If this goes out, there will be a 12-14-minute warning for an actual event.”

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, told CBSN last Saturday, “We’re taking a deep breath knowing that it was a false alarm. What I am hearing, and I don’t know for sure, is that it was a human error. Regardless of whether it was human error, a glitch or a hack, whatever it was, it is totally unacceptable.”

The alert was particularly poignant in Hawaii because of Pearl Harbor, a U.S. naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, was the destination of a surprise attack by Japanese forces on December 7,

  1. The attack resulted in more than 2,400 American deaths and 1,000 more people were wounded. The action resulted in President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking Congress to declare war on Japan. Thus, entering the U.S. into World War II.
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