Hawaii Missile-Warning False Alarm: Residents in Hawaii were in fear of a missile attack for 38 minutes, until it was declared that the alert message was false.

Stone He - 1B Mechanical
Posted on: January 20, 2018

On an early Saturday morning of January 13, Hawaiians were woken by a missile-warning message, only to find out that the message that was sent out was a mistake.

The whole missile alert ordeal lasted 38 minutes before a cancellation message was sent. Many have complained why it took so long to cancel the alert.

The alert, sent by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, was sent out due to human error that occurred during a shift change, where the operator accidentally selected the actual warning, instead of the drill warning. Richard Rapoza, the spokesperson for the Agency stated, “Somebody clicked the wrong thing on the computer.”

The file names for both the actual and drill warnings were PACOM (CDW) -STATE ONLY and DRILL-PACOM (CDW)-STATE ONLY. The former file would send alert messages to all mobile phones in Hawaii, while the latter would only send alerts to testing devices.

During the shift change, the operator would go through routine checks to make sure the IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System) software was functioning correctly. During the test on Saturday, however, the operator accidentally clicked on the file PACOM (CDW) – STATE ONLY instead of the drill file, which resulted in sending a ballistic missile alert to everyone who owned a smartphone in Hawaii.

After the incident, further plans to prevent an accidental alert being sent to people’s smartphones are now being implemented. A new cancellation command has been made to fix mistaken alerts easier and faster. In addition, a new procedure was implemented on the same day, such that 2 people will have to sign off the official alert before it could be sent.

The alert was triggered at 8:07 am, causing widespread panic across the state of Hawaii. Highways were filled with cars as people rushed to find shelter in the tunnels. In some areas of the state, emergency sirens went off, which increased the panic and terror of the people. However, those sirens were not triggered by the Emergency Management Agency.

This false alarm was already adding stress to the citizens due to the current political situation between the United States and North Korea. Earlier this year, both Donald Trump and Kim-Jong Un sent threats of nuclear missiles, with the former stating he has the bigger “size,” turning his threat into some sort of button-measuring contest. State officials have stated that residents would only have around 15 minutes to find sufficient shelter before a missile from North Korea could strike Hawaii.

The good news is that there was no missile. However, lessons were learned for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to prevent a false alert from going off.