Hawaii's Missile Scare: 'The System Failed Miserably'

FCC says it will investigate what went wrong
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2018 8:03 AM CST
This smartphone screen capture shows a false incoming ballistic missile emergency alert sent from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency system on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018.   (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
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(Newser) – "This system failed miserably and we need to start over." Those are the words of Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz in the wake of a false alarm broadcast Saturday warning residents of an incoming missile. The FCC apparently agrees and says it will open an investigation into the incident, which had Hawaiians mistakenly thinking that a missile was inbound for 38 minutes on Saturday morning. "Emergency alerts are meant to keep us and our families safe, not to create false panic. We must investigate and we must do better," FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel tweeted, per NBC News. Hawaii Gov. David Ige says the alert went out "when an employee pushed the wrong button" during a shift change. A look around at coverage, including accounts from residents who got a scary awakening:

  • CNN takes a look at Hawaii's three-part warning system, which it began testing in December and which combines outdoor sirens, an Emergency Alert System that utilizes cable TV and wireless cable, and the Wireless Emergency Alert system. It's a system without a lot of leeway: A North Korean missile could hit Hawaii in 20 minutes. Pacific Command needs five minutes to assess a launch, giving people 15 minutes to find shelter. "It's not much time at all," says the state's Emergency Management Agency's administrator. "But it is enough time to give yourself a chance to survive."
  • "So this is what it feels like to believe that you could have a nuclear bomb or an incoming missile about to destroy your world," writes Jon Letman at the Daily Beast. "Something must be done. Not just about the flawed mobile warning system in Hawaii but about a situation in which this scenario is even plausible."
  • At the Washington Post, Allison Wallis recounts frantically searching for the dog, texting her husband, and directing her young daughter to fill up the bathtub. "The fear I felt the first time I heard the nuke test siren, it turns out, is only a modicum of the fear I feel now, cowering in a bathroom with my child."
(Read more Hawaii stories.)

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