False alerts advising Hawaiians to “seek immediate shelter” from an incoming ballistic missile caused understandable terror on Twitter Saturday.
Residents of the the Aloha State were woken up by their mobile phones on Saturday morning as notifications were blasted telling that a “ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii,” according to social media posts.
Though the message said it was “an extreme alert” and “not a drill,” followup messages 38 minutes later explained it was a mistake. “State Warning Point has issued a Missile Alert in ERROR! There is NO threat to the State of Hawaii!” the Honolulu police department wrote on their website.
“It was a false alarm based on human error,” added Sen.Brian Schatz of Hawaii on Twitter, explaining that “there is nothing more important to Hawaii than professionalizing and fool-proofing this process.”
“What happened today is totally inexcusable,” he continued. “The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process.”
“Terrified” is an understatement. Hawaii’s roughly 1.5 million residents and their visitors went into sheer panic, many — including Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles‘ Josh Flagg — taking to Twitter and Instagram to express their fear.
“It was a false alarm but I spent 40 mins balling my eyes out and praying for my life,” wrote one user.
Hawaii representative Matt LoPresti called into CNN to tell his story, revealing that he and his family immediately sought shelter in the most inner room of their house.
“I was sitting in the bathtub with my children saying our prayers and fielding hone calls and messages from friends, families, and colleagues,” he said. “I was wondering why couldn’t hear the emergency sirens and that was my first clue that maybe something was wrong. But we took it as seriously as a heart attack. … I am extremely angry right now.”
Hawaii’s governor David Ige also spoke out about the incident on Twitter.
“While I am thankful this morning’s alert was a false alarm, the public must have confidence in our emergency alert system. I am working to get to the bottom of this so we can prevent an error of this type in the future,” he wrote in a statement. “I am meeting this morning with top officials of the State Department of Defense and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to determine what caused this morning’s false alarm and to prevent it from happening again.”
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Hawaii has been on high alert of a nuclear strike in the back and forth jabs traded between North Korea and president Donald Trump.
“At a time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to the community is accurate,” Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “We need to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never happens again.”