On January 13, 2018, at 8:07 A.M., residents and visitors in Hawaii picked up their beeping and vibrating cell phones to an ominous text message: a ballistic missile was heading right for them and they should seek immediate shelter. It would be 38 minutes before emergency personnel notified island inhabitants that the alert was sent in error.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency identified numerous breakdowns that cultivated the environment in which a wayward alert could occur. Because of a poorly drawn-up business continuity plan, there was no “false alert” code that could be sent in the case of an erroneous message. Agency administrators never prepared for such a situation.