Kingston resident Jef Johnston had only been in Hawaii for about 9 hours when something shocking happened. He was walking along Waikiki beach in Honolulu, a coffee in one hand, his cell phone in the other. That’s when he got an emergency text message telling him a ballistic missile was set to hit the state.
“I was kind of taken back. I didn’t know if it was something that normally happens down there or what it was, but I was surprised,” Johnston says.
The text message was dispatched to cellphones across Hawaii just after 8 a.m. Saturday morning, telling residents and visitors that the missile strike was not a drill and to seek shelter immediately. Johnston didn’t know what to think of the message, but says there was a lot of confusion at the time.
“There seemed to be some panic with some people. Some people just seemed to be kind of confused and unsure what was going on,” Johnston says.
Johnston admits he didn’t know whether the text was something residents received on a normal basis, but thought there wasn’t much he could do to protect himself if it was true. Thirty-eight minutes later, another message was sent out revoking the alert, saying there was no threat and it was all a false alarm — positive reassurance to many, including Johnston.
“I would have to say my reaction was obviously a big sense of relief,” Johnston says.
Hawaii’s governor, David Ige, apologized for the error, saying it was a mistake by one of its employees who pushed the wrong button.
“I, too, am angry and disappointed that this happened. We are doing everything that we can immediately to ensure that it never happens again,” Ige says.
Vern Miyagi, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, says: “One thing that we have to work on more is the cancellation notice in this event.”
The Federal Communications Commission has launched an investigation into what happened.