Residents and visitors in Hawaii Saturday received a missile warning alert in error after an employee pushed a “wrong button” during a change of shift, the state’s governor said, and the human error created a panic on social media.
The alert read in all capital letters: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”
The alert was sent sometime after 8 a.m. local time, and many people took to Twitter to share screenshots of their phones.
“What?! A ballistic missile?! #Hawaii” one user tweeted.
A second emergency alert went out about 40 minutes later clarifying that the first alert was a false alarm, CNN associate producer Amanda Golden tweeted. “Repeat. False Alarm” the second alert read.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency eventually tweeted “NO missile threat to Hawaii.”
Hawaii Gov. David Ige told CNN that human error caused the alert to go out.
“It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the change over of a shift, and an employee pushed the wrong button,” he said.
The warning went out to television and radio as well as cell phones, Ige added.
The governor’s remarks come after Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi headed to the agency’s 24-hour operations center to find out why the false alert was sent out, according to an email to CNN.
“The warning was a mistake,” Miyagi said.
Electronic signs displaying this in Honolulu right now pic.twitter.com/Tln9HLNg4g
— Anthony Quintano (@AnthonyQuintano) January 13, 2018
CNN was told by a viewer in Hawaii that both the initial threat warning and the message of false alarm more than 30 minutes later came across the TV warning notification system.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell tweeted saying the alert was sent in “ERROR.”
“There is NO threat to the State of Hawaii!” the mayor tweeted.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also posted to Twitter, reassuring citizens that she has confirmed with officials that “there is no incoming missile” and told CNN’s Jake Tapper the alert was “inadvertent.”
Commander David Benham, a spokesman for US Pacific Command confirmed in a statement that there is no threat: “USPACOM has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii,” the statement read. “Earlier message was sent in error. State of Hawaii will send out a correction message as soon as possible.”
White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters referred all questions about the alert to the Department of Defense.
Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz also took to Twitter on Saturday in the wake of the false alarm.
“There is no missile threat,” the Democratic senator tweeted. “It was a false alarm based on a human error. There is nothing more important to Hawaii than professionalizing and fool-proofing this process.”
Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono echoed that point in her own tweet.
“At a time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to community is accurate,” she wrote. “We need to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never happens again.”
This was my phone when I woke up just now. 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. @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/m6EKxH3QqQ
— Sara Donchey (@SaraDonchey) January 13, 2018
— me~shell⚾ (@hawaiigirl3) January 13, 2018
Ballistic Missile Warning in Hawaii. People are sheltering in place. I’m in Kauai now. Will try to report as best I can. pic.twitter.com/eLlmQD8bI5
— Jim Jaggers (@JJaggers_WREG3) January 13, 2018
"We're still getting to the bottom of the details," says Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard after a false alert is sent to Hawaiians informing them of an incoming ballistic missile strike https://t.co/94g2KjEfqr https://t.co/iyEAN9kJqG
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 13, 2018