Early on Saturday morning, everyone in the state of Hawaii received a mobile alert announcing — “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.” It took 38 minutes before a second alert was sent to people’s phones, declaring it a false alarm.
Now, Hawaiians are trying to return to normal life after receiving the scariest text you could ever imagine. On social media, people shared stories and videos of their experiences during those 30 minutes of panic.
On Twitter, Kimberly posted: “There was an emergency alert for a missile threat in Hawaii around 8am Hawaii time. My mom texted me around that same time — ‘I love you’ — and its just now clicking WHY she randomly sent me that. because she thought that was her last moments. I’m sitting at work crying.”
Even NBA legend Magic Johnson was spotted in one of the ‘fallout shelters.’
And, Buzzfeed interviewed a number of residents about their experiences.
Danielle, a college student, who is originally from Maui, told Buzzfeed:
We’re running. Everyone’s running. Everyone’s panicking. We get to where we think the bomb shelter is and we’re locked out. We’re all getting into more of a panic and then this boy comes running — with a hundred people behind him — with a key, and he could open one of the classrooms that were partially underground, but it wasn’t even to the point where we would be protected. So we have hundreds of people filing into this one classroom and it was like pandemonium — everyone was really worried. You could tell from across the room everyone was really unsure what was going on. It was scary.
After 38 minutes, the correction was finally sent to phones and posted to thoroughfares. “There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False alarm.”
So, it was a false alarm that caused this much panic — how could this happen?
Details are beginning to emerge, and it’s the simplest (and dumbest) possible explanation — it was due to human error and a bad system design.
A report from The Washington Post explained how the government worker made the error.
From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: ‘Test missile alert’ and ‘Missile alert.’ He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert.
The program does ask you to confirm your choice, but a Twitter user suggested maybe adding an extra step saying, “Before we unleash mass panic, are you DOUBLY sure?”
The employee who made the mistake has since been “reassigned” — whatever that means. But, if the alert was real, what are you supposed to do if a missile attack is imminent?
According to ready.gov the best things you can do for yourself is (1) create distance between yourself and the blast; (2) find shelter in a strong building, preferably underground; and (3) give time before venturing outside into radiation. They also recommend having a ready “go kit” with canned food and first-aid supplies.
But let’s be honest. That advice isn’t much better than those old 1950s public health films.
Basically, the Hawaii Missile Scare is a frightening reminder that … missiles are out there, guys. In dangerous hands. And unfortunately for us, anything is possible. Even the unimaginable.
Did you know anyone who was affected by this? How would you have reacted if you were in Hawaii? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @WhatsTrending.