Missile threat alert for Hawaii a false alarm
By Zachary Cohen, CNN
(CNN) -- An emergency alert notification sent out on Saturday claiming a "ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii" was a false alarm, according to state leaders and emergency officials.
"BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL," the emergency alert read.
While the message caused concern on social media, the Hawaii Office of Emergency Management quickly responded on Twitter, saying, "NO missile threat to Hawaii."
Hawaii Gov. David Ige told CNN that human error caused the alert to go out.
"It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the change over of a shift, and an employee pushed the wrong button," he said.
The warning went out to television and radio as well as cell phones, Ige added.
Ige also tweeted that he is meeting with top defense and emergency management officials from the state "to determine what caused this morning's false alarm and to prevent it from happening again."
The governor's remarks come after Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi headed to the agency's 24-hour operations center to find out why the false alert was sent out, according to an email to CNN.
"The warning was a mistake," Miyagi said.
A second emergency alert was sent to phones in Hawaii 38 minutes after the initial message confirming the false alarm.
CNN was told by a viewer in Hawaii that both the initial threat warning and the message of false alarm more than 30 minutes later came across the TV warning notification system.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also posted to Twitter, reassuring citizens that she has confirmed with officials that "there is no incoming missile" and told CNN's Jake Tapper the alert was "inadvertent."
Commander David Benham, a spokesman for US Pacific Command confirmed in a statement that there is no threat: "USPACOM has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii," the statement read. "Earlier message was sent in error. State of Hawaii will send out a correction message as soon as possible."
White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters referred all questions about the alert to the Department of Defense.
A White House official told reporters later Saturday that the President was briefed on the emergency management exercise. "This was purely a state exercise," the official said.
Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz also took to Twitter on Saturday in the wake of the false alarm.
"There is no missile threat," the Democratic senator tweeted. "It was a false alarm based on a human error. There is nothing more important to Hawaii than professionalizing and fool-proofing this process."
"AGAIN FALSE ALARM," he wrote in a second tweet. "What happened today is totally inexcusable. The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process."
Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono echoed that point in her own tweet.
"At a time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to community is accurate," she wrote. "We need to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never happens again."
The FBI's Strategic Information and Operations Center, Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency are monitoring the situation, a US official told CNN.
In addition, Defense Secretary James Mattis was briefed on the situation, a defense official told CNN. The Federal Communications Commission is also investigating the incident, FCC spokesman Brian Hart tweeted.
The US military maintains a complex and integrated network of sensors and detection capabilities in the Pacific to track ballistic missile activity, a network that has been — of necessity — improved in recent years, according to CNN military analyst John Kirby.
Real-world missile launches are detected immediately by satellites that discern the infrared signature right off the launching pad.
Tracking, verification and analysis would be provided to civil authorities by US Strategic and Pacific Commands, Kirby said.
Hawaii's emergency management system does not have this capability on its own and would rely on the military's verification and analysis of the threat, he said.
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