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Chief Bakes

BBC: Hawaii alert: False missile alert sparks panic

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Chief Bakes

Hawaii alert: False missile alert sparks panic

  • 13 January 2018
The missile-strike message Hawaiians saw on their phones was a false alarmImage copyright Twitter
Image caption The message Hawaiians saw on their phones

An incoming missile alert plunged residents of Hawaii into panic on Saturday morning before it was declared to be false.

Mobile phone users received a message saying: "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

Local officials confirmed there was no threat and the US government announced there would be a full investigation.

The US military also confirmed the alert had been sent "in error".

An alert system is in place because of the potential proximity of Hawaii to North Korean missiles.

In December, the state tested its nuclear warning siren for the first time since the end of the Cold War.

How was the alert released?

According to the Associated Press news agency, a push alert was sent to people's phones.

The phone message, all in capital letters, went out at 08:07 (18:07 GMT).

It was corrected by email 18 minutes later but there was no follow-up mobile text for 38 minutes, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.

In a tweet, the state's Emergency Management Agency (EMA) said simply: "NO missile threat to Hawaii."

Television and radio broadcasts across the state were also interrupted with a recorded emergency message: "Stay indoors!

"If you are outdoors seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building while laying on the floor. We'll announce when the threat has ended. This is not a drill!"

How did Hawaiians react?

AP describes reaction in the state as "full-blown panic" while according to the CNBC news channel, the alert "momentarily put recipients into a state of frenzy, with scores reportedly running for shelter".

Jamie Malapit, owner of a Honolulu hair salon, texted clients to say he was cancelling their appointments and closing his shop for the day, AP reports.

He said he had still been in his bed when his phone started ringing "like crazy".

Afterwards, he was still "a little freaked out" and feeling paranoid even after hearing it was a false alarm, AP adds.

What is being done to prevent this happening again?

Ajit Pai, chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission, announced the investigation.

"The @FCC is launching a full investigation into the false emergency alert that was sent to residents of Hawaii," he tweeted.

Why was Hawaii on edge before this?

North Korea's missile and nuclear programme is seen as a growing threat to America.

In September Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test.

Last month, the Star-Advertiser reported that a missile launched from North Korea could strike Hawaii within 20 minutes of launch.


Were you sent one of these alerts? Or do you know someone who was sent an alert? Please tell us your experiences. Email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk

You can also contact us in the following ways:

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If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

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Chief Bakes

Hawaii told to fix its alert system after false missile alarm

  • 14 January 2018
p05ttnht.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPeople were warned to take shelter

The US state of Hawaii has been told it did not have "reasonable" safeguards in place to prevent the false missile alert that caused panic on Saturday.

Ajit Pai, chairman of America's media regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said the error was "absolutely unacceptable".

The 38-minute delay in issuing the correction made it worse, he added.

He called for officials at all levels throughout the US to work together to rectify any vulnerabilities.

Residents and visitors to Hawaii were shocked to receive the false alert of an incoming ballistic missile, sent to their mobile phones early on Saturday morning.

Apologising afterwards, Hawaii's Governor David Ige said a member of staff had pressed the wrong button, releasing the alert which was also broadcast on TV and radio stations.

The alert system is in place because of the potential proximity of Hawaii to North Korean missiles.

What exactly did the FCC chairman say?

In a statement, Mr Pai said the alert had caused a "wave of panic across the state - worsened by the 38-minute delay before a correction alert was issued".

"False alerts undermine public confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during real emergencies," he said.

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionOne man told US broadcaster CBS that he started running when the alarm sounded

An FCC investigation, he continued, had already established that the "government of Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the transmission of a false alert".

"Moving forward, we will focus on what steps need to be taken to prevent a similar incident from happening again," he said.

Why was the alert sent?

It was a mistake by an employee at Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency during procedures that occur in a shift handover.

The message was reportedly sent despite an onscreen prompt requesting confirmation.

Mobile phone users received the message at 08:07 (18:07 GMT): "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

The eventual correction said: "There is no missile threat or danger to the state of Hawaii."

Has any immediate action been taken to prevent a recurrence?

One of the problems was that the alert system did not allow for a correction to be sent quickly to mobiles.

State officials said a "cancellation template" would be created to address the problem, the New York Times reported.

Two people are also now required to sign off the issuing of an alert, it said.

Will heads roll?

Hawaiian state officials were profusely apologetic. Governor Ige said: "I am sorry for the pain and confusion it caused. I, too, am extremely upset about this."

Vern Miyagi, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, also apologised for the "inadvertent mistake".

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard told ABC News there had been an "epic failure of leadership".

"It was unacceptable that this went out in the first place but the fact that it took so long for them to put out that second message, to calm people, to allay their fears that this was a mistake, a false alarm is something that has to be fixed, corrected with people held accountable," she said.

Brigette Namata, a television reporter in Honolulu, said it was "mind-boggling that we have officials here, we have state workers that are in charge of our public safety and a huge, egregious mistake like this happened".

President Donald Trump, who was playing golf in Florida at the time of the alert, has been criticised for not commenting publicly on the event.

Why was Hawaii already on edge?

North Korea's missile and nuclear programme is seen as a growing threat to the United States. Hawaii is one of the US states closest to the country.

In September Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test.

Last month, the Star-Advertiser reported that a missile launched from North Korea could strike Hawaii within 20 minutes of launch.

So Hawaii has reintroduced Cold War-era warning sirens. During a test last month, it was reported that 93% of them worked properly, although some could hardly be heard and 12 mistakenly played the ambulance siren.

p05pvpqc.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe siren has a different tone from a natural disaster warning siren

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SimonT

Having seen some of the accounts of the reactions, this was pretty harrowing. Saying goodbye to loved ones etc, hiding in bunkers.. 

Bad day 

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obsidian_eclipse

On one hand I'm glad we don't have the cell messages service here because of the possibility of calamity, yet on the other it's a powerful way of addressing a population in the events of a national emergency.

I have an imported us phone and you have a variety of toggle options regarding Amber Alerts - missing persons etc which could be pretty useful here. The one you can't disable are "presidential messages" which I assume would be the likes of war declarations and plays the weird white noise alert tone.

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Hyphen

I didn’t actually know this was something that was done over in the US. It does seem like it would be useful however I think when this sort of thing happens it isn’t great and causes huge amounts of damage and upset. Hopefully people will be okay.

On a lighter note that will be some cake fine for the person who pressed send :D

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Beaker



On one hand I'm glad we don't have the cell messages service here because of the possibility of calamity,


We have, but the mobile networks manage it. It is built in to the GSM Specification. I assume MOD or Home Office can grab access if required though.

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