A Serious False Alarm

January 20, 2018

When you think of Hawaii, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For us at Xyza, it’s endless sunshine, beautiful beaches, and an amazing place to rest and relax.

Well, for the nearly 1.5 million residents and hundreds of thousands of visitors of the islands, it was anything but relaxing for thirty-eight terrifying minutes on January 13th. What happened? An employee of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency accidentally pushed the wrong button and sent out an emergency alert to every Hawaiian resident and vacationer, as well as to TVs and radios that read:

Now we don’t know about you, but we’d be panicking and running for the closest shelter if we saw a message like that, wouldn’t you?

Although many officials took to Twitter shortly after the message was sent out to correct the mistake, the official “false alarm” message took over thirty minutes to reach the people of Hawaii, causing confusion and widespread panic throughout the islands. But why was this ballistic missile threat message even ready to be sent in the first place? Over the last few months, the state of Hawaii has been on high alert of possible missile threats as tensions between the United States and North Korea have grown. Threats have been exchanged by the leaders of both countries, with North Korea at one point even noting that President Trump’s previous tweets meant that he was declaring war on North Korea.

Mistake or not, this false alarm was a huge wake-up call for Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency and what they needed to do to make sure something like this doesn’t ever happen again. Unfortunately, mistakes do happen (it happened in Japan just a few days later!), but hopefully these mistakes are less and less frequent as better systems and protocols are put into place.

What would you do to make sure that emergency alert systems are not sent out by mistake?