Don’t Worry, False Alarm

Hawaii residents panic after receiving a “Ballistic Missile Threat” alarm. Luckily, it was an accidental false alarm.

Hawaii residents were traumatized after a warning about an imminent missile attack  was sent to their cell phones in the early morning of January 13th. The unexpected emergency message sent by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency read:


This notification was sent to the thousands of residents in Hawaii on January 13th.

It turned out that the emergency notification was a false alarm. There was no danger, no missile, but a terrifying confusion among the public. In accounting for this horrific accident, the officials pointed out human errors as the root cause. Hawaiian Government David Ige told CNN, “It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the change over of a shift, and an employee pushed the wrong button.” As the state government was preparing for the drills to cope with potential military threats that may arise from the recent tensions escalating between the U.S and North Korea, a staff accidentally “clicked the wrong button.” This emergency alarm was dispersed to the residents through television, radio, and cell phones. Now, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is attempting to prevent such accident from happening again. Inevitably, however, the government had to suffer a backlash from the terrified and angry public.

38 minutes after the initial warning message had been sent out, the second emergency alert was sent to the residents. In an effort to appease the residents terrified by the imaginary missile on its way to obliterate their island, Brian Schatz, the senator of Hawaii, wrote on his twitter, “There is no missile threat. It was a false alarm based on a human error. There is nothing more important to Hawaii than professionalizing and fool-proofing this process.”


The Hawaiian government attempts to alleviate the situation by addressing the false alarm.

This accident was especially terrifying for the Hawaiian civilians because they had been practicing and staging monthly air-raid drills, including the utilization of high blaring sirens. These drills have been practiced ever since the president of the United States and Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, exchanged hostile and taunting remarks about nuclear weapons and the looming possibility of imminent attacks.

Within few minutes after the first alarm, people immediately left their houses and drove in abject terror through intersections and highways toward the emergency shelters. The wailing of the emergency sirens didn’t help the situation; it only added to the panic.

These are the testimonials from some of the citizens:

“I was running through all the scenarios in my head, but there was nowhere to go, nowhere to pull over to,” said Mike Staskow, a retired military captain.

“Everyone cooperated,” said Kellye Krug, the athletic director at the school. “Once they were gathered, we let them use cellphones to reach loved ones. There were a couple kids who were emotional, the coaches were right there to console kids. After the retraction was issued, we gave kids time to reach out again.”

The situation was especially absurd because it took over half an hour to resolve the situation. Senator Brian Schatz added that the mistake was “totally inexcusable.”

Adding salts to the injury, the president of the United States, rather than try to make peace with hostile nations, childishly boasted about the number of missiles and the “size of the nuclear button,” taunting and belittling the leader of the hostile nation. However, this happening set a good example for the similar events that can happen in the future. People realized that following the emergency protocol as practiced in drills is necessary. Also, the state government is taking initiatives to prevent such mishap from ever happening again and to promote the communication between the government and the public. To the U.S. federal government, this incident sent a powerful message that calls for the peace with hostile nations.

– Andy Kim (’20)

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