False Alarm Scares Hawaii residents and vacationers
Just after 8 a.m. on Saturday, January 13th, smartphones across Hawaii received the Emergency Alert to inbound ballistic missiles heading towards our state. The alert advised "Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill".
My first thoughts were:
- It's a false alarm.
- If it's for real, there is no good place for me to shelter.
- It's a nice morning, sunny and cool.
Then I took the dogs out for our morning walk. It was a quiet day in Palolo Valley, I saw a few neighbors walking, no panic nor discussion of the missile warning.
Forty-five minutes later we returned home. I had a few missed calls from concerned relatives. I returned the calls, however by that time it was clear Hawaii wasn't under attack. National news stations were carrying the story and Governor David Ige issued a statement about the false alarm.
Some military bases sounded off their warning sirens, adding to the panic. Windward Oahu residents heard the sirens, likely from Kaneohe's Marine Corp Base Hawaii.
What Caused the False Alarm
A Civil Defense employee accidentally "the wrong button" while running a routine test of the Emergency Alert System. The employee pushed a second button, confirming he wanted to send the alert out. Personnel at Civil Defense did not immediately realize the alert had been sent out and minutes later other government officials called to verify the missile alert. Pacific Command confirmed no missiles were launched and notified the Honolulu Police Department.
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HEMA) at Diamond Head Crater, posted the correction at 8:20 a.m. and by 8:45 a.m. text messages were sent to smartphones indicating the first message was a false alarm. By late afternoon, local tv news stations reported that some Hawaii residents panicked, running red lights in their cars, rushing to gather emergency supplies and seek shelter.
Governor David Ige appeared on TV, verifying the false alarm and apologizing to all for the error. Further testing of the missile defense warning system is suspended and in the future the system will require two persons to initiate an actual warning. A procedure to cancel the warning will also be established, something that was lacking on January 18th and part of the reason it took so long for the false alarm notification to be issued.
False Alarm Aftermath
We're in an election year. Governor Ige is a quiet man and critics say he is slow to make decisions. Governor Ige unseated Neil Abercrombie in 2014 in part because Abercrombie had a reputation for speaking his mind whether or not he upset the people who voted for him. Abercrombie was out after one term in office. Ige, a person whose personality more closely represents many Hawaii residents, replaced the incumbent. Now after four years some politicians are saying Ige doesn't do enough.
I feel Ige shouldn't be blamed for this false alarm. The system was in place prior to Ige's taking office and it's an isolated mistake. If it happens again, we will have a recurring problem that hasn't been fixed.
Getting Back to Normal
The hubbub is mostly over. We have another sunny, cool (temperatures in the high 70's) day and life is almost back to normal. Hawaii is closer to potentially aggressive countries compared to the continental U.S. When we're thinking of nuclear weapons, there's risk to everyone. Let's hope we never see an actual nuclear attack.
Mike Bates (Realtor Associate)
Century 21 iProperties Hawaii
1585 Kapiolani Blvd #1533
Honolulu, HI 96814