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Hawaii false missile alert: How it happened, timeline of events

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. | Associated Press

Human error caused Saturday’s false alarm, but it took Hawaii Emergency Management Agency officials 38 minutes to tell cellphone users the alert was not real. Defense officials estimate it would take 20 minutes for a North Korean missile to reach Hawaii. Sequence of events:

8 a.m. (Noon CST)

Hawaii EMA employee starts shift.

The employee begins a standard practice test of the emergency missile-warning system. This is done during each shift change, three times a day.

8:05 a.m.

Test is initiated.

From a drop-down menu on a computer screen, the employee sees two options:

Test missile alert (this sends message internally to agency)

Missile alert (this sends message to public)

The employee chooses Missile alert by mistake.

Computer asks to confirm choice.

Employee clicks Yes.

8:07 a.m.

This message is sent to public, TVs, radios and cellphones:




8:10 a.m.

Maj. Gen. Arthur Logan, Hawaii EMA director, checks with U.S. Pacific Command, which says there is no missile.

Hawaii EMA notifies Honolulu police of false alarm.

8:13 a.m.

The State Warning Point, a communications/warning center, issues cancellation of alert. This prevents the alert from being rebroadcast.

8:19 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, tweets that alert is false.

8:20 a.m.

Hawaii EMA uses Facebook and Twitter to report missile alert is canceled.

Gabbard retweets that alert is false.

8:24 a.m.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige retweets Hawaii EMA cancellation notice.

8:25 a.m.

Kirk Caldwell, mayor of Honolulu, tweets that alert is in error.

8:30 a.m.

On his Facebook page, Ige posts that alert has been canceled.

8:34 a.m.

U.S. Pacific Command says it’s detected no missile threat, and that alert was sent in error.

8:45 a.m.

Hawaii EMA uses U.S. FEMA systems to send cellphone/TV/radio message that alert is false.


– The civil defense employee has been reassigned.

– Hawaii EMA has suspended all warning-system tests until investigation is complete.

– Hawaii EMA will require a two-person confirmation procedure before an alert can be sent.

– Hawaii EMA will install a computer process to rapidly issue alert cancellations, including cellphone alerts.