False Missile Attack Warning Sparks Widespread Panic
Hawaii’s False Missile Attack Warning Sparks Widespread Panic
By Pastor Hal Mayer on Jan 19, 2018
At 8:07 Saturday morning, January 13, an employee at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency pushed a button, which sent a message to all cellphones in the state. It read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Then came “take shelter” warnings from TV stations. A full blown panic ensued.
People scrambled, some huddling in their bathtubs, some diving into nearby storm drains and manholes and others running into basements and businesses in concrete buildings. Golf courses emptied in record time as people abandoned the game.
Tensions between the Trump administration and nuclear-armed North Korea have increased over fears the regime in Pyongyang may be able to reach US territory with a nuclear-armed missile. Hawaiian authorities have been preparing and testing early warning systems and residents have been urged to make emergency plans.
“Everyone’s got a plan,” said Ashly Trask, 39, who lives on the island of Kauai. “It’s very real.” When the alert came, Trask said, she piled her mother, 15-year-old son, two-year-old daughter and partner into the car, swung by her other son’s workplace to pick him up, and then sped to her office at the botanical gardens: a building with concrete walls that is used as a hurricane shelter. “It was definitely kind of a panic zone,” she said. “Everyone knows you have about 15 minutes until detonation, and no one knows where it will land.”
Family members on the other side of the island were too far away to get to the gardens within that short timespan. “They called us and they were crying because they realized they wouldn’t have made it to us,” Trask said.
In western Oahu, people ran out of buildings into the streets. According to a witness, some took shelter in the basement of a parking structure, where people cried and children huddled on rolls of fabric. Approximately 38 minutes later, authorities said the alert was a mistake.
Those 38 minutes was a period of sheer panic that saw people hug their loved ones goodbye. Others fell to their knees and prayed in the streets. In Honolulu desperate parents tore open concrete storm drains and slipped their children inside.
Governor David Ige apologized for the mistake and said the alert was sent during what should have been a routine shift change at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s command and control nerve center. “It was a procedure that occurs at the change of shift where they go through to make sure that the system, that it’s working. And an employee pushed the wrong button,” he said, adding that such shift changes occur three times a day. “I was awakened by the alert like everyone else here in the state of Hawaii. It was unfortunate and regrettable. We will be looking at how we can improve the procedures so it doesn’t happen again.”
Standard operating procedure requires workers clocking on to test the alert system to make sure it is fully operational, but this time the message, which should not have been heard or seen beyond the agency’s HQ control room, went public.
“The people of Hawaii were in shock and now not happy,” wrote Silas Aiton, a contributor to the New Daily, “especially with the end of the message saying ‘this is not a drill’, which is what was announced during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
When the message came that it was a false alarm, many in parking shelters hugged, cried, shook and prepared to head back outside. Others said they would remain undercover until they received confirmation from the coast guard that all was safe.
Honolulu resident Kim Smith told the Guardian she went to Diamond Head, a state park and former military base which “is a congregation place for a tsunami” and has “bunkers and tunnels.” Tourists, Smith said, were walking around “with no idea what was going on at all.”
“We ended up sitting outside in the car and waiting to see what would happen,” she added. “They started the missile siren system back up a couple of months ago and the sirens weren’t going off and there were no updates on the radio so it was a bit confusing.
Beth Ann Brooks of Haleiwa said she was at the beach when she received the alert and raced home. She and her husband sheltered in their bathroom, she said. “We grabbed couch cushions and our hurricane kit and water and sat there talking to the kids and trying to calm them down,” Brooks said. “They didn’t say much. It was horrible. The fear I felt was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”
For some, the prospect of the end of the world was an opportunity to indulge. Joshua Keoki Versola was home alone in Mililani when he received the alert. As he waited for his fiancée to drive home from her place of work, the 35-year-old network engineer opened a bottle of Hibiki 21, an award-winning and expensive Japanese whiskey.
For 38 minutes the people of Hawaii thought the end of the world had come. Some pled for forgiveness of their sins. Even some so-called atheists, were praying to God. Others opened expensive champagne and said they wanted to go out “in style.” But mostly, the mistake caused sheer panic that was unprecedented in the post-cold war era. The fear was palpable as people reflected on their lives and wondered what would happen to them if they were killed.
If ever there was a rumor of war, this would be it. The warnings of God’s word tell us that war is coming. Only those who are in Christ, and therefore under the protection of the angels of heaven, will not have fear and panic when real threats suddenly come upon them.
“And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of war: see that ye be not troubled.” Matthew 24:6.