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False ballistic missile alert spreads panic in Hawaii

While it was a false alarm, the episode raises some interesting questions.

Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Panic ensued for a few brief moments on Saturday after a false emergency alert notice was issued of an impending missile threat to Hawaii.

Multiple people reported receiving emergency alerts on their phones on Saturday reading: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Many shared screenshots of the alerts, all identical, on Twitter.

The alert also seems to have appeared on television.

While scary, the alert appears to have been a false alarm. Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency quickly tweeted that there was no missile threat to Hawaii. BuzzFeed News reporter Michelle Broder Van Dyke said that officials said there was no threat and the alert was sent by mistake.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) took to Twitter to inform constituents that the alert had been a false alarm as well.

A NORAD spokesperson told BuzzFeed News’s David Mack they are “trying to figure out where this came from or how it started” and assured him that “there is absolutely no incoming ballistic missile threat to Hawaii right now.” Per White House pool reports, President Trump was out on a golf course when the alert was sent.

Assurances that the alert was an error was met with relief — and, of course, questions about how it happened in the first place.

Forty-five minutes after the initial alert was sent, Hawaii’s office of Emergency Management sent another message saying the previous alert was a false alarm.

This story is developing.