People in Hawaii received an erroneous emergency alert on their smartphones Saturday warning them of a “ballistic missile threat inbound” — and stressing it is was “not a drill.”
The alert quickly stirred intense panic, prompting many to say they took cover — then outrage, as locals and droves of social media users recognized it was sent by mistake. Federal and state authorities later stressed there was no threat to the island, where tensions remain high due to recent threats from North Korea.
Congressional lawmakers, meanwhile, quickly called for accountability — and the Federal Communications Commission said it would be open its own investigation, a spokesman confirmed to Recode. The agency oversees the technical elements of the U.S. government’s emergency alert system; it did not send out the message.
The alert appeared to go out shortly after 8 a.m. local time, according to tweeted photos — including one from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who represents Hawaii in the U.S. Congress.
HAWAII - THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE TO HAWAII. I HAVE CONFIRMED WITH OFFICIALS THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE. pic.twitter.com/DxfTXIDOQs— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 13, 2018
The alert, which also interrupted television broadcasts, caught officials at North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, completely by surprise. A spokesman there told Recode on Saturday that it was looking into the matter.
Soon after, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency reported that a missile had not been launched. But it took state officials about 38 minutes to send an update, with the correct information, to its citizens.
NO missile threat to Hawaii.— Hawaii EMA (@Hawaii_EMA) January 13, 2018
Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, for his part, said that the alert had been sent as a result of “human error.” The state’s governor later told CNN that an official had essentially pressed the wrong button.
AGAIN FALSE ALARM. What happened today is totally inexcusable. The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 13, 2018
Later Wednesday, a White House spokeswoman said that President Donald Trump “has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise,” adding: “This was purely a state exercise.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.