False alert about “incoming ballistic missile” sent to Hawaiians

Photo: ReportIt/WTNH/MaryLu Gaughan

Hawaiians woke up to emergency alerts on their phones today about an imminent ballistic missile attack which they later learned was a false alarm.

The emergency alert was sent to people’s mobile phones in Hawaii at about 8:08 a.m. local time with the startling words, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command, Dave Benham, told ABC News in a statement that no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii was detected.

“Earlier message was sent in error. State of Hawaii will send out a correction message as soon as possible,” Benham said.

When asked for comment on the emergency alert, a spokesperson for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a statement to ABC News, “We see absolutely nothing from NORAD in terms of a missile warning and refer you to the state of Hawaii.”

Shortly after, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command, Dave Benham, told ABC News in a statement that no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii was detected.

“Earlier message was sent in error. State of Hawaii will send out a correction message as soon as possible,” Benham said.

Correction messages were later sent out to mobile phones in Hawaii and were broadcast on television via a scrolling red banner that read in part, “There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii.”

Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii wrote on Twitter that this morning’s false alert was “based on human error.”

“What happened today is totally inexcusable. The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process,” Schatz wrote in a subsequent tweet.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission meanwhile tweeted that the FCC is launching an investigation into how the false emergency alert was sent.

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Diane Cluxton, who lives on the Big Island, said she was grocery shopping with her husband when she received the false alert this morning.

“My husband got it at the same time and then all of a sudden you heard all these “What?” throughout the store, because everybody was receiving it all at the same time,” Cluxton told ABC News. “One person actually sought shelter in a doorway waiting for some other notification, so it definitely looked like everybody received the alert.”

Cluxton said some people in the store eventually received a second alert on their phone saying it was a false alarm.

ABC News’ Kateri Jochum contributed to this report.

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