Update 2: More details are coming out surrounding just how this terrifying false alert impacted Hawaii’s citizens.
NBC News reports that the ballistic missile threat left people “crying and screaming” in Hawaii on Saturday, the state’s officials said the message was sent in error.
California resident Elizabeth Fong is in Hawaii looking to buy a house and received the alert. She said she didn’t receive a correction alert, stating it was a false alarm, until 8:46 a.m.
The aftermath of the false alert was “crazy,” she told NBC Bay Area, and prompted people to run around on the streets “crying and screaming,” wondering what to do.
“I prayed to God and asked for forgiveness of my sins and for Him to protect us,” she said, adding that people are still shaken up.
Andy Thammavongsa, who tweeted a screenshot of his phone that showed the time between each alert, lives in Ewa Beach and told NBC in a Twitter message, “Everyone was panicking, the whole island was awake and alert.”
He added that “there’s nothing really you can do honestly” if the alert were real, saying there’s “nowhere to take shelter, the island is only so big.”
As we detailed below, many people in Hawaii took to social media during and after the alert.
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Update 1: Gov. David Ige and head of Hawaii’s Emergency Management agency, Vern Miyagi, told Hawaii News Now that the false alert was the result of human error – and boiled down to someone pushing the wrong button.
Oddly, while the local officials proclaimed it an error, The White House described a false inbound missile alert received by Hawaii residents on Saturday morning as an “emergency management exercise,” offering no further explanation for the erroneous warning.
“The President has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told reporters in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“This was a state exercise,” she added.
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Shortly after 8am local time Saturday, Hawaii’s emergency alert system sent out a shocking tweet to its citizens: “Ballistic Missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek Immediate shelter, This is not a drill.”
The emergency alert was sent to all cellphones…
And interrupted Hawaiian TV…
The moment the EAS alert interrupted Hawaiian TV is terrifying pic.twitter.com/pVwpCBeRgD
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 13, 2018
Hawaiians who got up early to watch soccer or basketball instead got the scary, robotic voice warning of a missile’s imminent impact.
Holy hell this is terrifying.
This is the exact moment the Hawaii Emergency Alert System for the Ballistic Missile alert interrupted Hawaiian TV. #Hawaii #BallisticMissle #EAS pic.twitter.com/gzLCBgqHVG
— Chris Strider (@stridinstrider) January 13, 2018
Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency responded 20 minutes later…
NO missile threat to Hawaii.
— Hawaii EMA (@Hawaii_EMA) January 13, 2018
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesman Richard Repoza confirmed it’s a false alarm. He says the agency is trying to determine what happened.
And Rep. Tulsi Gabbard quickly took to Twitter to confirm the emergency alert a false alarm…
HAWAII – THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE TO HAWAII. I HAVE CONFIRMED WITH OFFICIALS THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE. pic.twitter.com/DxfTXIDOQs
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 13, 2018
U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Cmdr. David Benham said in a statement that PACOM “has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii” and that an “earlier message was sent in error.”
Politicians wasted not time in pointing fingers and assigning blame…
“It was a false alarm based on human error,” Democratic Senator Brian Schatzof Hawaii later said on Twitter, without offering evidence. Schatz said Hawaii’s roughly 1.5 million residents were “terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process.”
“At a time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to the community is accurate,” Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “We need to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never happens again.”
And Gabbard was then quick to take to MSNBC proclaiming that “our leaders have failed us. Donald Trump is taking too long… he’s not taking this [nuclear] threat seriously…”
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Politicizes False Missile Alert: “Our leaders have failed us. Donald Trump is taking too long. He’s not taking this threat seriously …” pic.twitter.com/5jLZVkQ2jA
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) January 13, 2018
Hawaii has been on high alert given claims by North Korea that its newest intercontinental ballistic missile could fly 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles). If true, that would put even the mainland U.S. within range from Pyongyang. The isolated nation conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, and launched more than a dozen missiles in the past year.
Hawaiians on Twitter are not happy about this false alarm and who can blame them.
@MatthewBringas – Fuck u hawaii alert system
@KDombri – This mistake caused me to cry…I had a the best morning until I got this stupid notification
@mastermindhi – Held my babies and prayed
@MichaelRobison – So, is this truly a mistake?!!!?? Sirens are going off and people are in absolute panic….
In the last month they have begun preparations for a nuclear attack, as SHTFplan.com’s Mac Slavo details…
The previously retired air raid warning sirens from the Cold War era in Hawaii will be wailing again come December. Only this time, it’s due to the rising tensions between the United States and North Korea.
Hawaii has long been a military defense outpost, sparking fears that North Korea could target the island.
“I suppose that’s necessary as a precaution,” said Ted Tsukiyama, a Hawaiian resident, and WWII veteran.
“But I don’t think North Korea is gonna attack,” Tsukiyama said. “They’d be foolish to threaten South Korea or Japan or the United States.”
But the concerns are growing as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has repeatedly threatened to drop a bomb over the Pacific Ocean, and President Donald Trump has threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” and designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. In turn, North Korea has continually failed to abide by the United Nations sanctions placed on them, as they advance their weapons of mass destruction.
Sirens were installed around Hawaii after the second world war started, according to Tsukiyama, and there would be periodic tests.
“I remember hearing the sirens going off. The radio would give us a warning: ‘This is only a test, don’t get alarmed,’” said Tsukiyama, who was born and raised in Hawaii.
According to Vern Miyagi, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), which is part of the state’s Department of Defense, the chances North Korea will act are unlikely, but making sure Hawaii is prepared is still vital.
“If North Korea launches against us or our allies, the retaliation would be complete and they would defeat North Korea’s ambition to continue its regime. The regime would probably end,” explained Miyagi.
He notes Hawaii is protected under the U.S. Pacific Command’s defensive umbrella, the anti-ballistic missile system, and it is home to the Pacific Command, the military’s headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region.
Miyagi has pointed out that “Hawaii is a likely target because we’re closer to North Korea than most of the continental United States… As we track the news and see tests, both missile launches, and nuclear tests, it’s the elephant in the room. We can’t ignore it. People of Hawaii need to know what Hawaii is doing in preparation for this.”
Hawaii has been ramping up their preparations in advance for a potential nuclear attack by North Korea.
The Aloha State is currently attempting to educate its 1.4 million residents, as well as its visitors, on how to prepare for a nuclear attack. Hawaii has become one of the first states in the nation to initiate a nuclear preparedness campaign and starting December 1, it will reinstate the “attack warning” siren, which it hasn’t tested since the Cold War. The siren will follow the monthly “attention alert” signal, which warns people of an incoming tsunami or hurricane.
The state has also been holding community meetings and broadcasting public service announcements on TV and the radio to prepare people for a possible attack. Gone are the days of “duck and cover” during the Cold War; today, the mantra is “shelter in place,” preferably in a concrete structure. Officials also recommend having enough food and water to survive for 48 hours and being prepared with supplies to last up to 14 days.
If North Korea launches a missile, officials estimate it would only take 20 minutes to reach its destination. It would take about five minutes for the United States government to determine where the missile is going, which would leave about 12 to 15 minutes to warn the public.