Hawaii false alarm was irresponsible; new system should be put in place

Kali Ray, Reporter

Hawaii started off 2018 with the scare of their lives. On Jan. 13, residents of the island were notified via their cell phones of an imminent ballistic missile attack.

There was no missile, however, as the alert was a mistake. What isn’t a mistake, however, is the threat this type of mistake poses to our nation, and the world.

The incident in Hawaii is the perfect example of miscommunication that could bring the United States and North Korea into nuclear war accidentally.

Originally, officials told the public that the error occurred due to a mis-click. The options to run a drill or to send out an actual alarm were stacked right on top of each other, and an employee hit the wrong button.

However, later in January, a federal investigation revealed that the employee had actually misheard the message being played during the drill.

Either way, it should be at least a little harder for an employee to send out a ballistic missile warning to an entire state.

The event began when a supervisor decided to run a surprise drill to test employees. The drill included the word “exercise,” repeated three times, before the fake alert.

The employee claims that he did not hear the exercise part of the message, but only heard a later part of the message, where “this is not a drill,” is stated.

This error lead to 38 minutes of panic in the island state. Residents received an alarm message that said “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

The state emergency management agency stopped broadcasting the alert seven minutes after it was sent and notified Gov. David Ige.

Ige could not immediately respond, though, because he had forgotten his Twitter password. The agency also had a difficult time telling the public the alert had been a false alarm as there was no official correction they could issue.

On its own, sending out a false alarm would be a problem, but not a 38-minute long problem. The Hawaiian government’s inability to respond efficiently and in a quick manner makes this mistake that much more dangerous and irresponsible.

Changes are being made to help prevent this type of incident in the future. The worker who sent the false alert was fired, and the alert system now requires another person to verify the alarm. The latter being a change that should have happened long ago.

A nuclear attack is becoming more and more of a concern and possibility as tensions increase between North Korea and the United States. In fact, Hawaii put up a Cold War-style siren statewide as a warning of a possible attack last year.

Many experts are saying that this accident just highlights the ever growing possibility of an unintended nuclear war with the communist nation. Mistakes like what happened in Hawaii could easily spark war, so they cannot be repeated.

Many draw parallels from incidents in the Cold War in which miscommunication and human error brought the Soviet Union and the United States to the brink of war, and they fear that North Korea and the United States might actually enter war.

Some say the possibility of accidental war is even higher in today’s conflict because unlike the Soviets who had good intelligence, North Korea is operating in near blindness.

Only time will tell, but the nation can only hope that as the two nations’ leaders gamble with our safety in a battle of threats and name calling, that neither actually follows through and presses the button that could start World War III.