Ballistic Missile False Alarm That Sparked Panic In Hawaii Caused By Wrong Button, Officials Say

news
A big, red button.
Flickr / wlodi

A member of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency inadvertently sent out a warning that a ballistic missile was streaking towards the islands after accidentally hitting a wrong button, an agency spokesman said.


At each shift change, the agency does an internal drill to check on its systems, Richard Rapoza told Task & Purpose on Saturday.

“During that drill, somebody clicked on the button on the computer and sent out a live alert,” Rapoza said. “That is not supposed to be part of the drill. It was a mistake.”

Around 8 a.m. local time, Hawaii residents received the following alert on their cell phones: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

The "wrong button" false alarm came at a particularly tense time in U.S. relations with North Korea, with the leaders of both nations bragging about being able to nuke the other at the push of a button.

Aerial footage shot of the University of Hawaii campus in Honolulu in the immediate aftermath of the alert showed panicked students streaming out of buildings and seeking shelter as instructed. The HI-EMA did not issue a retraction until some 15 nerve-wracking minutes later.

The state official who sent out the false warning made at least two errors, the Vern Miyagi, administrator of the Emergency Management Agency, told reporters on Saturday.

After accidentally clicking on the button to send a live warning, he clicked yes again to a message on his computer screen that asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Miyagi said at a news conference.

Miyagi was unable to explain why the person in question clicked on the wrong button twice. He also declined to say whether any personnel would be disciplined for the mistake.

“You got to know: This guy feels bad, right,” Miyagi added. “He’s not doing this on purpose. It was a mistake on his part. He feels terrible about it and it won’t happen again.”

Now the emergency system will now require two people to send out a live alert, state officials said. The agency is also looking at how to more quickly inform the public when an alert goes out by accident.

Miyagi also advised Hawaii residents to stay up to date on news about North Korea so they will know when tensions are high. He said he guessed the initial warning was a mistake because North Korea and South Korea have begun talking.

“When I saw this today, when I heard this today, I thought something was wrong, it was a false alarm, mainly because the tensions were not there to start something like this,” he said.

The agency is talking to technicians to determine why it took so long to let Hawaii residents know that the warning was an error, he said.

“Right now, what we’re looking at is whether we need to change our procedure to make sure that it’s not that easy to make a mistake – and also to ensure that we have a cancellation and an all-clear process to make sure that we’d be able to inform the public more quickly that there was an error or a false alarm,” Rapoza told Task & Purpose.

“We understand that, clearly, we need to improve that process,” he added. “In light of what happened this morning, we’re looking very carefully at every step of our process. We know that our credibility with the public is absolutely vital – and we know that we let the public down, so we’re checking every step along the way.”

Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.

The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.

During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.

"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."

"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."

Read More Show Less
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (Reuters photo)

Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.

Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.

Read More Show Less
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith (Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation's third highest award for valor this week for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, the service announced Monday.

Read More Show Less

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane intercepted a suspected semi-submersible smuggling vessel in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean and seized approximately 5,000 pounds of cocaine October 23.

Read More Show Less
Some dank nugs. (Flickr/Creative Commons/Dank Depot)

SARASOTA, Fla. — With data continuing to roll in that underscores the health benefits of cannabis, two Florida legislators aren't waiting for clarity in the national policy debates and are sponsoring bills designed to give medical marijuana cards to military veterans free of charge.

Read More Show Less