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The Aftermath of the Hawaii Missile Scare

In the early morning of January 13th, 2018, Hawaii residents received a “ballistic missile threat” alert on their iPhones.

We know now that the alert was a false alarm, but it took the state of Hawaii 38 minutes to notify both residents and tourists that there had been a mistake, causing a panic. Realistically, defensive officials predict it would take around 20 minutes for a missile to reach Hawaii from North Korea.

Here’s the information we have about what happened on the day of this detrimental mistake:

  • Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employees were checking their emergency missile warning system

  • The employee was presented with two options: “Test Missile Alert” or “Missile Alert” (see picture below)

  • The employee pressed “Missile Alert” and confirmed it with the press of another button, sending out the message to the public

  • The Major General checked with the U.S. Pacific Command to insure there was no real threat of a missile headed towards Hawaii

  • Once he confirmed there was no imminent threat, Hawaii’s Representative tweeted out that the alert was false

  • 38 minutes after the alert was sent out, Hawaii EMA sent out a cell phone/TV/radio message that the alert was false

After this event, Hawaii has enacted intense measures to insure this does not happen again. Here are the steps the state has taken:

  • The civil defense employee was replaced

  • Hawaii will not be testing their warning systems until a full investigation is complete

  • Hawaii EMA now requires to people to confirm the alert before sending it out to the public

  • Hawaii EMA is working on installing a software that rapidly cancels alerts




Ella Bruck

Muhlenberg '21

Hi I'm Ella! I'm a sophomore at Muhlenberg College and a Media & Communications and Anthropology double major. I'm the Managing Editor and event coordinator for Her Campus at Muhlenberg. Some things about me: I love working out, travelling, and eating food (especially sushi)! 
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