Hawaii emergency officials: Alert of ballistic missile threat was mistake

HONOLULU (KABC) -- Hawaii emergency officials said an alert of a ballistic missile headed toward Hawaii that sent residents into a full-blown panic was a false alarm.

The alert stated in all caps, "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill." It was sent at 8:07 a.m. local time.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency confirmed that the alert, sent to people's phones in Hawaii, was an error.

"This is a false alarm. There is no incoming missile to Hawaii. I have confirmed with officials there is no incoming missile," tweeted Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi also spoke during the news conference and said his agency made a mistake.

While the agency tweeted 10 minutes after the alert went out that it was a false alarm, it didn't reach people who were not on or checking the social media platform.

For the 38 minutes it took before a corrected message was broadcast, the alert caused panic around the state.

The false emergency alert apparently happened because "the wrong button was pushed," Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki said in a statement.

He added, "Apparently, the wrong button was pushed and it took over 30 minutes for a correction to be announced. Parents and children panicked during those 30 minutes."

Gov. David Ige said at a press conference Saturday afternoon that the error happened during a routine procedure that occurs as workers are changing shifts.

"An error was made in emergency management which allowed this false alarm to be sent," Ige said. "It was a procedure that occurs at the change of shift, enabling (us) to make sure that the system is working, and an employee pushed the wrong button."

Authorities added that the worker did not know he had sent out the alert until he received it on his own phone.

The governor added that in order to prevent the error from occurring again, the state will change its procedures by having more than one person involved in pushing the correct button.

Officials also said the reason it took so long to send a correction is that there is no way to send a false alarm alert. It had to be done manually, which is something else that will be changed.

The Associated Press and ABC News contributed to this report.
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