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False Emergency Alert of Incoming Ballistic Missile Attack Rattles Hawaii

A morning view of the city of Honolulu, Hawaii is seen on January 13, 2018. Social media ignited on January 13, 2018 after apparent screenshots of cell phone emergency alerts warning of a 'ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii' began circulating, which US officials quickly dismissed as 'false.''Hawaii - this is a false alarm,' wrote Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard on Twitter. 'I have confirmed with officials there is no incoming missile.' The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency also confirmed there is 'NO missile threat to Hawaii.' US military spokesman David Benham said the US Pacific Command 'has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii. Earlier message was sent in error,' adding that the US state would 'send out a correction message as soon as possible.' / AFP PHOTO / Eugene Tanner
A morning view of Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday. Eugene Tanner/Getty Images

Mobile phones in Hawaii received a harrowing alert Saturday morning: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER, THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The warning also appears to have been broadcast on television. The alerts sparked panic and caused a few harrowing minutes as people didn’t know whether to believe the stark warning. Emergency officials corrected the error about 20 minutes after the initial alert went out, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

It wasn’t just civilians who didn’t know what was going on.
Andrew Flowers shared a screencap on Twitter of a text message he received from his father, an Army major stationed in Hawaii, who said they didn’t know whether the warning was real. “I called your mom and told her I love her and we waited to see what is true or not,” he wrote.

A few minutes after the initial alert went out, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard tweeted that it was all a false alarm.

That was confirmed by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency that tweeted: “NO missile threat to Hawaii.” A spokesman for the U.S.
military’s Pacific command also said it “detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii.”

Even though the initial message warned that “THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” it turns out the whole thing may have actually been a drill gone wrong. “We’re in a process of sending another message to cancel the initial message. It was part of a drill that was going on,” a spokesperson for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency told BuzzFeed News. It isn’t quite clear what caused the false alarm.

The initial alert went out at around 8:07 a.m., the state then sent an email alerting about the mistake at 8:25 a.m. but didn’t send out a cellphone correction until around 38 minutes after the initial alert, according to the timeline by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

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