Hawaii residents received an erroneous emergency phone alert on Saturday morning that warned of a ballistic missile threat and told people to seek immediate shelter, causing panic throughout the state.
The mobile push notification, sent around 8 a.m. local time, read, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” An emergency message also interrupted television broadcasts in Hawaii.
TV with the alert pic.twitter.com/VCZAtvyuzQ
— Michelle Broder Van Dyke (@michellebvd) January 13, 2018
It was followed within minutes by statements from Hawaii officials that there were no incoming ballistic missiles. Within 20 minutes, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency tweeted, “NO missile threat to Hawaii.”
And U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who represents Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district, also tweeted that there was no threat.
HAWAII – THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE. THE ALERT WAS SENT OUT INADVERENTLY. I HAVE SPOKEN TO HAWAII OFFICIALS AND CONFIRMED THERE IS NO THREAT. pic.twitter.com/hwRGct2aTa
— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) January 13, 2018
But it took 38 minutes before residents received a second official alert stating that it had been a “false alarm.”
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 13, 2018
Within that time, people were taking shelter where they felt safest and connecting with loved ones, some saying their goodbyes. Hawaii residents, along with their relatives and families, spoke on social media of a harrowing ordeal trying to reach their loved ones in what they believed could be their last moments.
Worst phone call I’ve ever received, my panicked sister who received a erroneous Civil Defense text that a nuclear missile was headed to her home in Hawaii. I thought I would never hear from her again
— Hawkeye KSCS DJ (@HawkeyeOnAir) January 13, 2018
I just hung up with my family. This is the message my entire family woke up to this morning. For about 5 minutes today, I did not know if everyone I loved was going to die. Someone needs to get to the bottom of this, because this is unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/DXG1x90718
— Mitchell Byars (@mitchellbyars) January 13, 2018
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 (@KPRC2Sara) January 13, 2018
In December, Hawaii tested its nuclear warning siren for the first time since the end of the Cold War amid rising tensions with North Korea.
Gabbard told CNN on Saturday that in the event of a ballistic missile, the alert would signify that residents have about 15 minutes to take shelter. But “there are no nuclear shelters for people to go running to within 15 minutes,” she said. “Where do they go? What do they do?”
Gabbard also called for President Donald Trump to address a “nuclear threat” from North Korea. “This is a reality that people in Hawaii are facing, that there is a nuclear threat coming from North Korea,” she said.
Ajit Pai, chair of the Federal Communications Commission, said on Twitter that the FCC “is launching a full investigation” into the incident, while U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said on Twitter that the alert was “a false alarm based on a human error.”