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What caused the Hawaii ballistic missile false alarm?

Madison Campbell, Staff Writer

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Last Saturday, as people were enjoying their days on the islands of Hawaii, there was a dramatic turn of events as a mass text message was sent out to the entire state. The message, written in all caps, warned of an inbound missile threat heading toward the islands, before ending with saying that it was not a drill. With tensions high with North Korea, the content of the message could not be taken lightly by any of the receivers.

As the message was initially sent out, the sound of phones beeping in public places like a chorus filled the air, and panic followed soon after. College students ran back to the dorms at the University of Hawaii, kids fled soccer fields during practice, and parents raced home to comfort their kids. People living in Hawaii made phone calls telling their loved ones goodbye.

For thirty-eight minutes, pure terror erupted on each of the Hawaiian Islands as an ominous text message flashed across every mobile phone in the state. The same message appeared over TVs, radios, and news sites everywhere; “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.” However, it would soon be realized that there had been a horrible mistake: there was no missile threat at all.

A second message was sent out, saying that there was no known missile threat to Hawaii and that it had been an error. The terror felt from the initial text turned into anger at officials for allowing this to happen. Hawaii Gov. David Ige later said the message being sent in the first place was due only to human error, where an employee hit the wrong button during the change of a shift. He also added that he was meeting with top officials to determine what exactly had happened before, during, and prior to the accident.

As of Monday, the employee guilty of activating the message has been ‘reassigned’ to a new position, and as of now the employee’s identity is most likely never going to be released by the state. The employee, who has worked for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency for ten years, is rumored to feel ‘absolutely horrible for his mistake’.

In the wake of the false alarm, officials are spending time creating new ways for citizens to be notified of a false alarm event easier and quicker than before. The text message system will most likely continue to be used by officials, as it worked and alerted citizens quickly about the (false) threat. However, they’ve also added a new, two-step identification process to ensure that when the button is being pressed, it is an emergency and not an accident like the one that unfortunately occurred on Saturday.

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What caused the Hawaii ballistic missile false alarm?