False ballistic missile alert spreads panic in Hawaii

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While it was a false alarm, the episode raises some interesting questions.

Panic ensued for a few brief moments on Saturday after a false emergency alert notice was issued of an impending missile threat to Hawaii.

Multiple people reported receiving emergency alerts on their phones on Saturday reading: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Many shared screenshots of the alerts, all identical, on Twitter.

The alert also appears to have appeared on television.

While scary, the alert appears to have been a false alarm. Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency quickly tweeted that there was no missile threat to Hawaii. BuzzFeed News reporter Michelle Broder Van Dyke said that officials said there was no threat and the alert was sent by mistake.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) took to Twitter to warn constituents that the alert had been a false alarm as well.

A NORAD spokesman told BuzzFeed News’ David Mack they are “trying to figure out where this came from or how it started” and assured that “there is absolutely no incoming ballistic missile threat to Hawaii right now.”

NORAD spokesman Lt. Commander Joe Nawrocki tells me: “There is no missile threat. We’re trying to figure out where this came from or how this started. There is absolutely no incoming ballistic missile threat to Hawaii right now.”

He adds, “My phone’s been blowing up.”

– David Mack (@davidmackau) January 13, 2018

PACOM STATEMENT JUST NOW:
“USPACOM has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii. Earlier message was sent in error. State of Hawaii will send out a correction message as soon as possible.”

– Sam LaGrone (@samlagrone) January 13, 2018

Assurances that the alert was an error was met with relief – and, of course, questions about how it happened in the first place. The story is still developing.

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