Missile alert, false alarm

Hawaii residents received this emergency alert on their mobile device at approximately 8:05 a.m., Jan. 13. A second alert was sent notifying residents that it was a false alarm. Photo by Michelle Poppler

Anna General

Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

Many Hawaii residents woke up early Saturday morning, Jan. 13 with an emergency alert received on their mobile phones of an incoming ballistic missile attack, which set off widespread panic and confusion, as acknowledged by state officials.

The emergency alert read: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

After nearly 40 minutes, a second emergency alert was sent out that read: “There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False alarm.”

According to a statement released by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), they confirmed there was no ballistic missile threat and the false alarm was caused by human error. HI-EMA took measures to ensure the incident doesn’t happen again.

“I know first-hand how the false alarm affected all of us here in Hawaii, and I am sorry for the pain and confusion it caused. I, too, am extremely upset about this and am doing everything I can do to immediately improve our emergency management systems, procedures and staffing,” said Hawaii Gov. David Ige.

Navy Region Hawaii, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) and Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) posted “false alarm” notices on their command Facebook pages upon confirmation to inform the base community.

“The duty Public Affairs Officer (PAO) confirmed the false alert through the joint base command duty officer, then relayed the information to post on the PMRF, joint base and region’s Facebook pages,” said David Hodge, acting JBPHH PAO director.

In the event of a nuclear threat or other disaster, it’s a good idea to educate yourself and your families on what types of disasters might happen in the community.

Here are some tips provided by ready.gov in the event of an attack:

Before an attack

• Build an emergency supply kit.

• Make a family emergency plan.

• Find out from officials if any public buildings have been designated as fallout shelters.

• If your community has no designated fallout shelters, make a list of potential shelters near your home, workplace and school, such as basements, subways, tunnels, or the windowless center area of middle floors in a high-rise building.

• During periods of heightened threat, increase your disaster supplies to be adequate for up to two weeks.

During an attack

• Listen for official information and follow the instructions provided by emergency response personnel.

• If an attack warning is issued, take cover as quickly as you can, below ground if possible, and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.

• Find the nearest building, preferably built of brick or concrete, and go inside to avoid any radioactive material outside.

• If better shelter, such as a multi-story building or basement can be reached within a few minutes, go there immediately.

• Go as far below ground as possible or in the center of a tall building.

• During the time with the highest radiation levels it is safest to stay inside.

• Radiation levels are extremely dangerous after a nuclear detonation.

• Expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours unless told otherwise by authorities.

• When evacuating is in your best interest, you will be instructed to do so. All available methods of communication will be used.

If you are caught outside and unable to get inside immediately:

• Do not look at the flash or fireball — it can blind you.

• Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.

• Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.

• Take shelter as soon as you can, even if you are many miles from ground zero where the attack occurred — radioactive fallout can be carried by the winds for hundreds of miles.

• If you were outside during or after the blast, get clean as soon as possible, to remove radioactive material that may have settled on your body.

• Remove your clothing to keep radioactive material from spreading. Removing the outer layer of clothing can remove up to 90 percent of radioactive material.

• If practical, place your contaminated clothing in a plastic bag and seal or tie the bag. Place the bag as far away as possible from humans and animals so that the radiation it gives off does not affect others.

• When possible, take a shower with lots of soap and water to help remove radioactive contamination. Do not scrub or scratch the skin.

• Wash your hair with shampoo or soap and water. Do not use conditioner in your hair because it will bind radioactive material to your hair, keeping it from rinsing out easily.

• Gently blow your nose and wipe your eyelids and eyelashes with a clean wet cloth. Gently wipe your ears.

• If you cannot shower, use a wipe or clean wet cloth to wipe your skin that was not covered by clothing.

After an attack

People in most of the areas that would be affected could be allowed to come out of shelter within a few days and, if necessary, evacuate to unaffected areas. The heaviest fallout would be limited to the area at or downwind from the explosion. It might be necessary for those in the areas with highest radiation levels to shelter for up to a month.

Returning to your home

• Keep listening to the radio and television for news about what to do, where to go and places to avoid.

• Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away from areas marked “radiation hazard” or “HAZMAT.”

Helpful resources:

Ready.gov: www.ready.gov

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency: http://dod.hawaii.gov/hiema/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/

CNRH Facebook: www.facebook.com/NavyRegionHawaii

JBPHH Facebook: www.facebook.com/JBPHH

PMRF Facebook: www.facebook.com/PacificMissileRangeFacility

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Category: News