Emergency sirens islandwide accidentally set off during police training exercise

Published: Sep. 19, 2019 at 6:18 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Emergency sirens were accidentally set off islandwide on Wednesday, sending residents from Waikiki to Waianae scrambling to figure out what was happening.

Authorities also confirmed that at least one emergency siren erroneously sounded in Kahului. It’s unclear what would have caused that siren to trigger.

The Honolulu Police Department took responsibility for the Oahu false alarm, saying that someone accidentally set them off during a training exercise with dispatch at the main station.

“I just want to apologize the public,” said Police Chief Susan Ballard, in an interview with Hawaii News Now. “It was just a very simply mistake. We need to do better.”

Ballard said the alarm was set off during a dispatcher training. She said the training was being done on live equipment rather than with training software, which she said HPD needs to get.

“I am so sorry,” she said. “We realize we need to make sure that we’re training on training equipment only.”

The city’s Department of Emergency Management said the sirens sounded about 5:10 p.m.

It took about 12 minutes for state agencies to confirm the sirens had been accidentally triggered.

“There is no reason to be alarmed,” the department said. “Repeat ... no cause for alarm.”

Mayor Caldwell sent out a tweet saying there was no reason to be alarmed about six minutes after the sirens stared.

The alarms sounded in communities across Oahu, sending people into a panic to figure out what was going on. Within seconds, dozens were calling the HNN newsroom to try to get more information.

Residents also flooded the phone lines of the state Department of Emergency Management, police and other agencies.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu, meanwhile, took to Twitter to reassure residents that there was no active tsunami alert.

On social media, many were incensed.

“How are people supposed to take these false alarms seriously when they all end up being false alarms?" wrote Facebook user Chad Husted. “This is becoming a cry wolf scenario.”

Also on Facebook, Patrick Green said, “This time it was extra nerve-wracking because you’re thinking to yourself, ‘It can’t be a false alarm again.’”

The incident is no doubt reminding residents of the Jan. 13, 2018 false missile alert.

In that case, a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee triggered the missile alert because he mistakenly thought that Hawaii was under threat. The false alarm generated national headlines, and months-long state investigations into how prepared the state is for real emergencies.

This story will be updated.

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