The Jury Talks Back


False Report of Incoming Ballistic Missile Panicks Hawaii

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 2:09 pm

I wish I had more time to do a thorough post on this, but I wanted to throw something up, as I think it’s important. People in Hawaii today got a false report of an incoming ballistic missile on their phones:

Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 2.06.41 PM

Our commenter shipwreckedcrew wrote a couple of comments, like this:

So, how is everyone’s day going?

Not much happening where I live.

“Inbound ballistic missle heading for Hawaii. THIS IS NOT A DRILL”.

8:07 am on my iPhone.

Other than that, kids are enjoying their pancakes.

And this:

With an hour to decompress — here’s what sucks.

Four kids at home and one off at soccer practice.

And the stunning realization there’s not a f’ing thing you can really do about it.

The 16 year old calls and says “What should I do?”

What do you tell him?

Reports are that this warning was the result of someone pushing the wrong button. Someone on Twitter observed:

You can and should blame the person who pushed the wrong button, but that was probably inevitable when you had a system that allowed it.

Thank God nobody overreacted. History has examples of mistaken warnings bringing us closer to the brink of nuclear war than you’d like to think. I hope the people of Hawaii recover from the psychic shock of this horrible scare.


  1. State authorities struggled but fortunately it appears the military did not panic:

    Read below the timeline released by state officials surrounding the false emergency alert:

    Approx. 8.05 a.m.: A routine internal test during a shift change was initiated. This was a test that involved the Emergency Alert System, the Wireless Emergency Alert, but no warning sirens.

    8.07 a.m.: A warning was erroneously triggered statewide by an employee at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA).

    8.10 a.m.: State Adjutant Maj. Gen. Joe Logan validated with the US Pacific Command that there was no missile launch.

    Honolulu Police Department notified of the false alarm by HI-EMA.

    Comment by DRJ — 1/13/2018 @ 6:59 pm

  2. What troubles me most, and makes me doubt the initial story, is that it reportedly took 40 minutes for them to issue a “false alarm” update, once they knew they’d goofed.

    It makes me wonder if, contra the official claims, they were hacked.

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 1/14/2018 @ 11:26 am

  3. There was probably a process that precedes the emergency warning, and something went wrong that resulted in a real alarm instead of a drill. I doubt there is a single button that made this happen or a single button that would turn it off. In addition, if there was a shift change at the same time the new shift had to figure out what was happening before starting the process of undoing the alarm.

    Comment by DRJ — 1/14/2018 @ 12:06 pm

  4. The problem seems to be human and the system. I hope every state reviews their systems, especially regarding how to cancel a mistaken test. It appears the delay in canceling the test occurred because the Hawaii authorities had to get approval. It’s hard to believe this is the first time an alert has been sent in error anywhere in the US so maybe this is just an issue in Hawaii.

    Comment by DRJ — 1/15/2018 @ 6:52 am

  5. But according to the link, there was a safeguard of sorts. it The operator had to confirm his selection and he did, but he thought he was selecting a drill instead of the real thing.

    Comment by DRJ — 1/15/2018 @ 6:54 am

  6. But according to the link, there was a safeguard of sorts. The operator was using a drop down menu. He was required to confirm his selection and he did, but he thought he was selecting a drill instead of the real thing. Hence the decision to retrain him.

    Comment by DRJ — 1/15/2018 @ 6:56 am

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