After someone pushed the 'wrong button,' Hawaii is thrown into panic

Students run for cover after receiving missile alert mistake
Published: Jan. 13, 2018 at 3:58 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2018 at 11:10 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Someone pushed the wrong button.

That's how Saturday's false ballistic missile threat alarm was sent out, the governor told Hawaii News Now.

The message that warned of an imminent ballistic missile attack was sent out about 8:05 a.m. to all cell phones in Hawaii.

It took 38 minutes for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to send out a second alert letting people know about the error.

The state, counties and military corrected the alert on social media within about 15 minutes.

Gov. David Ige said the delay in sending a second alert to cell phones was due to state officials trying to determine if the alert was real or false, and getting federal permission to send out a second message.

"We went through a process to confirm whether it was a real alarm or not. We did make the determination that it was a false alarm, and then we initiated the notification to everyone," Ige said.

Vern Miyagi, head of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, reiterated that message Saturday afternoon.

He said the false alarm was sent out during a drill, and that going forward, that drill will be completed by two people instead of one.

The state instituted the missile threat drill for employees at the emergency management agency several months ago, as part of a broader state push to increase preparedness of the nuclear threat to Hawaii from North Korea.

"The wrong button was pushed," Miyagi said. "I deeply apologize for the trouble and heartbreak we caused today."

He said that the false alarm went out during a shift change.

The alert message did have a fail safe — and that failed.

"Again it's a human error. There is a screen that says 'Are you sure you want to do this?' That's already in place," Miyagi said. "We had one person, human error and that thing was pushed anyway."

At each shift change, a series of procedures are completed. And it was at that point an employee clicked the wrong item on a computer.

The false alarm drew strong rebukes from Hawaii lawmakers and others, who also questioned why it took so long for a correction to be sent out.

The governor said the state has launched an investigation to determine what went wrong, and also said that it's looking to figure out how to issue a correction more quickly.

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This story will be updated. 

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