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False 'Ballistic Missile Threat' Alarm Startles, Frightens Hawaiians

A terrifying emergency alert falsely notified people of an incoming ballistic missile strike.

Published Jan 13, 2018

Updated Jan 13, 2018

On the morning of 13 January 2018, a shocking emergency alert went out to phones all over the state of Hawaii:

The text of the alert read, in all capital letters:

BALLISTIC MISSILE INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

The matter was complicated by anxious readers crashing the Department of Defense's site for Hawaii as they sought more information about the purported incoming missile.

A few minutes later, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard tweeted that she had spoken to defense officials and they had told her that the alert was an accident and that no missiles were about to strike: 

HAWAII - THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE TO HAWAII. I HAVE CONFIRMED WITH OFFICIALS THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE.

Hawaiians responded to tell her that they had been huddled in doorways and basements, waiting for the end:

 Hawaii's governor David Ige also confirmed on Twitter that the state is in no immediate danger

Governor Ige later told CNN:

It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the change over of a shift and an employee pushed the wrong button.

However, there has as yet been no explanation as to why it took nearly 40 minutes to send out a new alert assuring people that it had been a false alarm.

Updates

Added details throughout.

Brooke Binkowski is a former editor for Snopes.

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