Hawaii: A State of Chaos
January 15, 2018
All year round, Hawaii is a key destination for tourists who want to enjoy beautiful beaches and fun-filled adventures in the mountains. What began as a relaxing day at the beach for many soon descended into chaos when a missile alert was sent out to all mobile phones by state officials. The alert read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Moments later, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency released a corrective alert explaining that a missile was not incoming and that an error occurred when one of the workers pressed the wrong button.
“I think that things like that should be reported better. In a world where we’re always facing a threat, we have no room for false alarms. There should be more precautionary measures taken,” junior Indira Mera said.
This simple but noteworthy mistake resulted in fear and anger within many of the islanders and tourists of Hawaii. Many began to question how a worker was able to mistakenly send such a serious alert that instigated chaos with such ease. According to Richard Rapoza, the agency’s public information officer, in the system, there is a choice for a drill alert and one for a live alert and the worker made the wrong selection and confirmed the live alert by mistake. It took 38 minutes to manually generate and send out a corrective alert to Hawaiian residents. In addition to a mobile alert system, the island has a system of alarms that are supposed to go off in the case of an emergency such as an incoming missile. Frantic residents were left confused for 38 minutes, unsure of whether to seek shelter or treat the alert as a mistake, as the alarm system had not gone off. Days after the incident, President Trump made one his first statements commending Hawaiian state official for taking responsibility for their mistakes.
“My aunt and uncle live in Hawaii so my family and I were extremely worried until the false alarm alert came out. They called us and were obviously hysterical and also confused, but were trying to find someplace to go because there really is no shelter near their home. I think it’s extremely irresponsible that so much time elapsed between the 2 alerts, and that the first one was even able to be sent in the first place,” freshman Alexandra Torres said.
Due to the false alarm, Rapoza has confirmed that the state has made drastic changes to their system. Their new system now requires a second employee to confirm the alert in order for it to be sent out and they created templates in the system that allow for immediate correction in case of any future mishaps that would lessen the time of the corrective alert if it were done manually.