Hawaii residents fume over 38 minutes of terror triggered by false missile alarm | World Defense

Hawaii residents fume over 38 minutes of terror triggered by false missile alarm


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Nov 17, 2017
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Hawaii residents fume over 38 minutes of terror triggered by false missile alarm
Authorities realised error within three minutes but had to wait for clearance to text clarification to people's phones

Rob Crilly
January 14, 2018


Hawaii governor David Ige, left, and Maj Gen Joe Logan, state adjutant, at the Hawaii Emergency Management Administration on January 13, 2018 following the false alarm issued of a missile attack on the pacific islands. George F Lee / The Star-Advertiser via AP

It should have been a routine, internal test carried out during a shift change at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency just after 8am.

Instead, according to official explanations, somebody clicked the wrong thing at the wrong time, sending warnings of an incoming ballistic missile attack to mobile phones across Hawaii.


The result was 38 minutes of panic in state already on edge because of growing tensions between the US and North Korea.

Joseph Kira was at home with his children when the alert came. His wife was at the gym.

“My wife was going ballistic,” he said. “At that point, you just pray and find God, I guess.”

Hawaii is already used to dealing with deadly disasters such as volcano eruptions and earthquakes. During recent months residents have been coming to terms with the island chain’s location within range of North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal.

Last month the state reintroduced tests of its warning sirens, something not done since the Cold War ended.

Hawaii’s 1.4 million population knows what to do when the warnings are triggered – seek shelter immediately.

Customers at coffee shops dived under tables or tried to find shelter at home. There are few basements and many people could only huddle in garages.

Hotels packed with tourists seeking out winter sun had to deal with thousands of guests unsure where to turn.

Professional golfer Colt Knost, staying at Waikiki Beach during a PGA Tour event, said the lobby of his hotel filled with panicking families.

“Everyone was running around like, ‘What do we do?’” he said.

It took seconds to spark the panic, but state officials already knew there was no attack.

The alert was triggered at 8.07am. By 8.10am, Maj Gen Joe Logan, state adjutant, had already conferred with the US military’s Pacific command and knew there was no attack.

But there was a problem. The warning was out there, in the sort of blunt language that could not be ignored. It was one thing to send alerts, quite another to recall or correct them.

At 8.13am the next best thing happened: the danger warning message was cancelled, meaning it would not be rebroadcast to phones that had not yet received it.

No one across the Pacific Ocean islands knew it yet. They were still hunting for safety or saying their goodbyes to loved ones.

Cellphone networks jammed and vehicles were abandoned on the H-3, a major highway north of Honolulu, where drivers ran for the safety of a nearby tunnel.

Jocelyn Azbell said she was among guests at her Maui hotel who were “herded like cows” into the basement.

“Hawaii is beautiful,” she told CNN. “But it's not where I want to die.”

To add to the rising tide of panic, 12 of the 386 emergency sirens started to sound – even though they were not part of the text warning system.

Diane Pizarro, who was at home with her family, told the Honolulu Star Advertiser: “That gave more credibility to the text.”

Sara Donchey, an American TV reporter based in Texas, was in Honolulu visiting her family when she woke up on Saturday to a string of messages on her phone warning her of the danger.

“Honey take shelter, I love you,” read one of her messages.

“This was my phone when I woke up just now,” she posted on Twitter. “I'm in Honolulu, #Hawaii and my family is on the North Shore. They were hiding in the garage. My mom and sister were crying. It was a false alarm, but betting a lot of people are shaken.”

Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman for Hawaii, said the reaction was natural at a time of heightened sensitivity.

“This is a real threat facing Hawaii, so people got this message on their phones and they thought: 15 minutes, we have 15 minutes before me and my family could be dead,” she told CNN.

The islands have recently begun holding “Are You Ready” drills, briefing the population on what to do in the event of a strike.

Even as people huddled in garages or sent last messages to loved ones, the authorities knew there was no missile.

Thirteen minutes after the mistaken text was sent the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (Hema) managed to post Twitter and Facebook messages that it was all a false alarm, but it would still take another 25 minutes for a correction text alert to go out to phones.

Vern Miyagi, the agency’s administrator, said officials had to wait for authorisation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send out a retraction.

The apologies began even as tearful families were still coming to terms with what had happened. The inquest into how an erroneous emergency alert could be sent so easily – and be so difficult to be reversed – will last much longer.

“Today is a day most of us will never forget,” said David Ige, the state’s governor, at Diamond Head Bunker, the emergency command post from where the mistaken alert was sent.

“A day when many in our community thought that our worst nightmare might actually be happening. A day when many frantically tried to think about the things that they would do if a ballistic missile launch would happen."

Mr Miyagi offered more details of the mistake. An unnamed employee mistakenly pushed a button sending the alert rather than a button marked for testing. The employee then clicked through a safeguard, selecting “yes” when asked whether he was sure he wanted to send it.

Officials were quick to offer solutions to ensure such panic would not be allowed again. They promised to build a “cancellation template” to make it easier and faster to correct mistakes and immediately instituted a new system to ensure two people must sign off on future alerts.

The state legislature has scheduled a hearing for Friday.

Scott Saiki, the house speaker, said the system had failed miserably.

“Clearly, government agencies are not prepared and lack the capacity to deal with emergency situations,” he said in a statement.

Brian Schatz, a senator for Hawaii, tweeted that the false alarm was "totally inexcusable".

“There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process,” he wrote.

For residents, who now know what it is like to be told they have minutes to live, the result is lingering anger that a simple mistake too so long to fix.

“So this was the most terrifying few minutes of my LIFE!” Paul Wilson, a professor at Brigham Young University-Hawaii, wrote on Twitter. “I just want to know why it took 38 minutes to announce it was a mistake?!?”



Staff member
Nov 17, 2017
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Worker who caused botched missile alert in Hawaii reassigned
By Susan McFarland
Jan. 15, 2018


Hawaii Gov. David Ige speaks during a news conference on Saturday concerning a ballistic missile threat mistakenly sent out statewide earlier in the day. On Monday, officials announced the employee who made the mistake would be reassigned. Photo courtesy Gov. David Ige/Facebook

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The emergency worker who mistakenly caused a ballistic missile alert to be sent across Hawaii was reassigned pending outcome of an internal investigation.

A spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management System did not say on Monday what the worker would be doing but said it is a role that has no access to the warning system.

The 38 minutes of confusion early Saturday caused panic for 1.4 million Hawaiians who were already on edge because late last year the state reinstated its Cold War-era nuclear warning system after North Korea fired off a ballistic missile.

The Federal Communications Commission is investigating the mishap, which happened just after 8 a.m. Saturday when the worker selected the wrong item on a computer program's drop-down menu, which gave two options: "Test missile alert" and "Missile alert."

Authorities said the worker mistakenly selected the second option, which sent cellphones across the state a message in all caps: "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."

The employee has been with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency for 10 years. A spokesman for the agency said the company is receiving death threats over the matter via anonymous telephone calls.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Sunday said Hawaii didn't have "reasonable" safeguards in place to prevent erroneous alerts like the one Saturday.

President Donald Trump said going forward, federal officials will become more involved in Hawaii's notification program.



Staff member
Nov 17, 2017
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FCC chairman: Hawaii didn't have 'reasonable' safeguards
By Danielle Haynes

Jan. 14, 2018


Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said federal and state officials were investigating how Hawaii's emergency management system sent out a false missile alert. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Sunday said Hawaii didn't have "reasonable" safeguards in place to prevent erroneous alerts like the one Saturday in which Hawaiians were falsely warned about an incoming missile.

Pai said a federal investigation into the emergency alert was underway in concert with state officials.

"Based on the information we have collected so far, it appears that the government of Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the transmission of a false alert," he said in a statement.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday, Hawaiian residents received a cellphone alertthat read, "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."

Within 15 minutes of the alert, the Hawaii Emergency Management issued a tweet confirming the alert was sent in error and after 40 minutes pushed an alert to residents' cellphones.

The alert sent people scrambling for shelters, overloaded cellphone services and crashed the Hawaii Emergency Management's website. Warnings also appeared on television in the state.

Vern Miyagi, the administrator of Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency, took the blame for the error, saying someone in the department pushed the wrong button during a shift change. Miyagi said it is his responsibility to oversee the system for such notifications and that the agency would take steps to prevent the mistake from happening again.

"Moving forward, we will focus on what steps need to be taken to prevent a similar incident from happening again. Federal, state, and local officials throughout the country need to work together to identify any vulnerabilities to false alerts and do what's necessary to fix them. We also must ensure that corrections are issued immediately in the event that a false alert does go out."

Gabbard on Sunday said the error was "unacceptable" but that it highlights a need for President Donald Trump to negotiate with North Korea.

"We've got to get to the underlying issue here of why are the people of Hawaii and this country facing a nuclear threat coming from North Korea today, and what is this President doing urgently to eliminate that threat?" she said during an appearance on CNN's State of the Union.



Staff member
Nov 25, 2014
2,409 25 0
:xD: can not help but laugh. This is could be to test the readiness in case such thing take place in the future. Kim botton maybe!


Staff member
Nov 17, 2017
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Hawaii alert was a false alarm, but danger is real
By Harlan Ullman, Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist
Jan. 22, 2018

Two weeks ago, air raid sirens and tweets of an incoming attack resounded throughout Pearl Harbor and the Hawaiian Islands. The last time such an alert was issued in earnest was 76 years ago when Japanese bombers struck battleship row and other U.S. military facilities early on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

This time, for nearly 40 minutes, the threat of North Korean missiles destroying Honolulu, possibly with nuclear warheads, was no longer remote.

Fortunately, no missiles had been launched. It turned out that human error caused the alert and the subsequent outright fear of many who understandably believed the end was in sight. The lesson from this erroneous incident however should not be wasted. The danger of some form of a nuclear accident or miscalculation is real. Indeed, while only two nuclear weapons were ever used in anger in August 1945, that more were not detonated in some form of accident or miscalculation was miraculous.

While the United States has always worried about nuclear proliferation and whether other states could be trusted to secure safely their nuclear weapons, its own record has not been good. Nuclear bombs were dropped inadvertently or lost in crashes. Three incidents are salutary.

In 1979, Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Neb., detected hundreds of incoming Soviet warheads. Attack was imminent or so the warning systems indicated. Fortunately, the SAC commander at the time, Air Force Gen. Richard Ellis, kept his head when awakened with the frightening call on the red phone. Ellis did not believe the report.

In fact, there was no attack. The off-going watch section had played a training tape to test the system. The tape was supposedly deleted. It was not and inadvertently caused the mistaken alarm. Reading former Defense Secretary William Perry and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski on this potential catastrophe should be mandatory for all senior government officials on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

In 1980, A Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile accidentally ignited, spewing a 5-megaton thermonuclear warhead several hundred feet into an Arkansas farmer's field. One Air Force technician in the silo was killed. But the warhead did not partially detonate or release any radioactive material.

In 1983, a U.S. military training exercise called "Able Archer" was wrongly evaluated by the Soviet Union as a pre-emptive strike against it. Again, good luck intervened. But it was a close-run thing.

Today, the latest nuclear danger in Washington stems from North Korea. Many still worry about the security of Pakistani nuclear weapons. Fewer worry about Indian or Israeli weapons. Ironically, Pakistani nuclear weapons, though far fewer in number than America's, have had a better safety record. And an unclassified report written for Sandia National Lab about a decade ago by former Pakistani ambassador to the United States and National Security Adviser Gen. Mahmud Durrani revealed that its weapons were stored under a "three-key system" arguably safer than the United States' two-key process.

Meanwhile, the about to be released Nuclear Posture Review and National Defense Strategy are reportedly calling for a recapitalization and modernization of America's nuclear forces. Given that the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty signed three decades ago and New START are in jeopardy of being revoked, a new nuclear arms race is indeed a possibility, especially as China and Russia become the centerpieces for the new defense strategy. That would be a disaster.

The Hawaii alert provides a great opportunity for the Trump administration. First, it needs to review the unhappy history of nuclear weapons accidents and incidents publicly and share the findings with Congress and the people.

Second, and at the same time, Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin must meet on this issue of arms control and arms reductions soon.

Third, an agenda to reduce nuclear weapons and limit modernization, as well as to prevent incidents and accidents, must be set and then signed as executive agreement or treaty. This would re-invigorate past efforts to build confidence and exchange observers, as well as de-targeting all warheads. Indeed, meetings to include all nuclear weapons states should be established to prevent the spread or use.

Napoleon asked if a general was lucky before appointing him to high command. Make no mistake. The United States and the world have been lucky.

But as the Hawaiian alarm demonstrates, mistakes happen. And what happens if, next time, it is al-Qaida or the Islamic State that triggers a false alarm that in turn is not perceived as false?

Harlan Ullman has served on the Senior Advisory Group for Supreme Allied Commander Europe (2004-16) and is senior adviser at Washington D.C.'s Atlantic Council, chairman of two private companies and principal author of the doctrine of shock and awe. A former naval person, he commanded a destroyer in the Persian Gulf and led over 150 missions and operations in Vietnam as a Swift Boat skipper. His newest book, "Anatomy of Failure: Why America Has Lost Every War It Starts," is just out. Follow him on Twitter@harlankullman.