The last thing that anyone would like to see pop up on the screen of their iPhone while on a tropical vacation would be a warning to “seek shelter” with a bold “IMMENENT MISSLE STRIKE” above. That was the exact case on Saturday, January 13, 2018 when citizens of the big island were sent two emergency alerts, both within 38 minutes of one another, the first harkening immanent widespread destruction for locals, and the next stating it was a false alarm.
In the current state of world, a missile threat isn’t a joke anymore. Even with the threats that seem to constantly spew from the northern side of the Korean peninsula, there is still a very real possibility for targeted missile strikes on the far-western side of the United States. That includes our ever-treasured “paradise” state of Hawaii. The Huffington Post reported shortly after the incident that people had already discovered the alert was an accident, before the official authorities had a chance to release anything. Locals and vacationers alike took to social media to see just how much time they had, and shortly thereafter discovered the blunder on the part of the emergency alert system.
The Governor of Hawaii, David Ige, didn’t get a chance to release the false-alert news fast enough because “he lost the password to his twitter account,” according to the Huffington Post. From the Washington Post, the accusations of a “wrong button” being pressed were subsided. With the newer and more contemporary emergency alert system being moved over to computer systems, it seems during a test an employee had accidentally selected the wrong alert message off a “dropdown menu on the computer.”
Recent Olivet Alum Megan Ralston, holding a B.S. in Exercise Science and working as a Personal Trainer and Resort Assistant on the island of Maui, was able to comment on her own personal experience of the whole ordeal. It seems she asked her self the same thing that many around her were thinking, “Is this really happening?” The second question that popped into her mind, and she notes herself the bias due to current world events, “Is there something that we (United States) did to anger the North Koreans?”
People seemed to react in a myriad of ways, as Ralston said, “one lady even asked for me to continue selling her beach chairs and a cabana from the resort. She told me, ‘If I’m going to die, I can at least do it watching the whales.’” Many called family members, and most, after the sirens started, sought out some sort of shelter before the time when the warning said the missiles would hit. Ralston sought shelter in a parking garage and took the time to contact her family. “Hearing my mom crying on the other end of the phone really made it quite real to me. This could be it.”
While this entire situation is an embarrassment on the part of Hawaii’s system for emergency management and alerts, some are finding ways to make good of the stressful ordeal they had to experience. As Ralston finishes off, “I don’t know what happened that day and why the alarm was set, but I believe there is a reason for everything. Yes, it was horrible, but I think this alarm opened people’s eyes to what is really important, and for a short time, the small things didn’t matter so much.”