At 5:10 PM on Thursday Oahu and Maui residents heard a sound that you never want to hear, tsunami warning sirens.
The warning was accidentally triggered by a police exercise and heard islandwide as residents from Waikiki to Waianae were in fear for their lives as they tried to figure out what was going on.
The alarm was heard in Kailua, Kakaako, and Waikiki and as far away as Ewa Beach. Somehow, the alarm was also triggered in Kihei on Maui.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency released a statement that read “Due to an error during a Honolulu Police Department training exercise, emergency sirens were mistakenly activated on Oahu.”
Hawaii residents were kept in the dark until Mayor Kirk Caldwell tweeted at 5:12 PM “The city’s @Oahu_DEM is aware of a siren sounding in the Kakaako area at about 510pm this evening and is investigating. THERE IS NO REASON TO BE ALARMED. REPEAT… NO CAUSE FOR ALARM.”
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency followed up at at 5:19 PM HST, “Mistaken siren sounding by Honolulu Police Department. NO EMERGENCY at this time.”
Honolulu residents were understandably upset, confused, and in disbelief that the Hawaii EMA could make such a mistake after the islandwide fake missile alert that occurred in 2018.
“Such a sensitive system should not just be haphazardly just going off. Doesn’t reenforce any sense of confidence in it.” Said one user on Twitter. “I am alarmed that our emergency alarm is going off if it’s not an emergency. Haven’t you guys caused enough trouble with these false alarms?? @Oahu_DEM” Said another.
Others were upset that these false alarms could make them ineffective if and when a real emergency arises. “Why the hell would HPD need access to a natural disaster alarm?!?!? THEY’RE NOT EXPERTS IN ANY AREA THAT THAT ALARM IS TIED TO!”
It seems strange that the training exercise in Honolulu set off alarms across the island and even in Maui.
There are no details on exactly how the alarm was triggered during the training exercise but we will update this story with additional information as it becomes available.
Hawaii Reacts to the Impromptu Test
The Hawaii EMA regularly tests the tsunami warning sirens but they usually send out an alert via social media and announce the upcoming tests on the news. Since there was no announcement, many people believed the warning to be real.
A few users posted videos of the sirens going off across the island.
Most Hawaii residents were understandably upset at the sirens but a lot of them were still able to laugh at the situation.
Unlike the fake missile crisis of 2018, officials were quick to respond to this incident and let people know that it wasn’t a real emergency.
The Fake Missile Crisis of 2018
On January 13, 2018 at 8:07 AM every resident in Hawaii received an emergency alert on their smartphone that read “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
The alert caused pandemonium across the islands as residents ran for shelter and rushed to the harbor to try and board a boat off the island.
It took 38 minutes for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to respond and tell residents that it was a hoax. They sent a message at 8:45 that read “There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.” By that time, many people had already abandoned their homes or taken residence in impromptu bomb shelters.
Many Hawaii residents rushed to the H3 tunnel seeking cover from the phantom missile.
AT the time, tensions were high between North Korea and the United States. North Korea had been testing their long range ballistic missile capabilities and Donald Trump had been antagonizing the small nation on Twitter, referring to Kim Jong Un as “rocket man” and threatening to utilize nuclear weapons against the country.
Hawaii is the closest United States territory to North Korea and was believed to be in the range of their long range weapons. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency started testing islandwide alerts to be prepared in case the event ever happened.
A Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee who had been working there for 10 years mistakenly triggered the alert from the Diamond Head Crater headquarters. The supervisor ran an unscheduled drill during a shift change. The employee, who had a history of getting drills and real emergencies confused, went through the motions but when he reached a screen that read “test missile alert” and “missile alert”, he chose the latter.
Head of the HI-EMA Vern Miyagi and executive officer Toby Clairmont resigned in the wake of the bogus missile alert. The employee that mistakenly sent the alert resigned and moved back to the mainland.
“I, too, am very angry and disappointed that this has happened,” Ige said at the time, adding later that, “We have already taken action to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Governor Ige also tried to justify the slow response from his office by saying ““I have to confess that I don’t know my Twitter account log-ons and the passwords, so certainly that’s one of the changes I made,” he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser during a press conference. “I’ve been putting that on my phone so that we can access the social media directly.”
As somebody who was living in Honolulu at the time and witnesses the hour of mass hysteria following the missile announcement, it’s easy to understand why residents are so upset at this latest incident.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency still needs to redeem themselves in the eyes of the local people. This latest incident is another huge blow for an agency that needs a win.
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