A ballistic missile warning system alert in Hawaii went off erroneously today creating panic among the islanders, even as the officials dubbed it a "false alarm". The alert also warned that "this is not a drill".
Almost 40 minutes after the warning was sent out, Hawaiian authorities said that it was a false alarm, trying to calm a frightened public that has become hyper-vigilant in the wake of nuclear threats made by the nation of North Korea.
State Representative Matt LoPresti told CNN he and his family sought safety in a bathtub but wondered why nuclear alert sirens had not sounded.
After the initial shock subsided, the next question was, "What do we do now?"
According to a November Hawaii Emergency Management Agency public service announcement, the state normally conducts a test of the Attention Alert Signal on the first business day of each month.
The administrator of Hawaii's Emergency Management Administration, Vern Miyagi, told reporters that the person responsible for the erroneous message "feels terrible" about it. How do you press the wrong button like that.
"It was unfortunate and regrettable", the Democratic governor said.
Officials are working to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.
Hugh Rowden, from Decatur, Ill., was in the Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu when he got the alarm.
"This morning we were actually getting ready to go to the beach", he said. "This was a different sensation, that's for sure".
Hawaiian officials are now looking into the situation, saying that some residents didn't receive the alert, while others are questioning why it took so long for authorities to issue a correction after the mistake was made. "A day when many frantically try to think about the things that they would do if a ballistic missile launch would happen", he said. "Do you know anything?'" Murray said.
The message on phones read as follows: "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii".
Air raid sirens blared across Hawaii on December 1 in a new monthly test in response to the emerging North Korean nuclear threat. In an emergency where people have roughly 12 to 15 minutes to seek shelter, 38 minutes for clarification seems like an eternity. "The whole state was terrified".
"It's clear that the process to alert the public of a false missile warning needs to be improved, and we will do our best to ensure that this occurs", the mayor said. "It was a false alarm based on a human error".
"This was purely a state exercise", she added.
Hawaii's emergency management system does not have this capability on its own and would rely on the military's verification and analysis of the threat, he said.
The US government has announced that there would be a full investigation into the incident.
NPR's Tamara Keith contributed to this report. Stay with Island News online and our 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts for more on this developing news story.
"On a going forward basis, we do intend to continue the monthly siren tests and other tests as we have done in the past".
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