‘Holy crap:’ Alaskans in Hawaii react to false missile alert
Alaskans in Hawaii received a rude awakening Saturday, when a false warning of an incoming ballistic missile was sent to everyone in the state by emergency officials.
Candis Olmstead with the Alaska Air National Guard was vacationing with her family in Honolulu when she received the alert Saturday, which was sent out as text messages, TV alerts and radio bulletins.
“When I saw the alert in all capital letters say, ‘THIS IS NOT A DRILL,’ that’s when it hit me – that ‘Holy crap, what’s going on right now, this is really scary,’” Olmstead said by phone Saturday.
Jevin Guieb, a Hawaiian with relatives in Alaska, said he was also on Oahu and about to go to the beach for the day with his girlfriend when the false alarm came in.
“It was like a mind shift or a shift of mind where, you know, there were so many thoughts about incoming missiles,” Guieb said. “At that instant it became a reality, so it kind of put me into action mode – so I started texting friends, I started receiving texts from friends.”
Olmstead, speaking from Oahu’s North Shore Saturday night, said she came up with three potential plans of action – but ultimately, like Guieb, spent the nearly 40 minutes between the first alert and its retraction reaching out to people.
“It made it feel more real when the announcement came in the hotel rooms,” Olmstead said. “We kept doing what we were doing, which was trying to get ready while texting people back at work, trying to figure out what was really going on.”
Rachel McPherron, a KTVA photographer, said she and her wife were asleep in Kihei on the island of Maui when the false alarm came in.
“We woke up to our phones just constantly buzzing and buzzing and buzzing, and we thought it might just be people in Alaska trying to get back to us,” McPherron said. “My wife just picked up the phone and looked at it and explained the message in big bold letters: ‘Ballistic missile coming your way.’”
Guieb said the alert issued by the state, which has been preparing facilities to deal with a potential missile strike, has affected his mental stance regarding a possible missile strike.
“It really did shift into being more prepared being ready to deal with these things,” Guieb said.
Olmstead, emphasizing that she was speaking as a citizen rather than a member of the National Guard, expressed anger about the lack of further details before the alert was retracted.
“What was frustrating to me was that we were not getting any additional information from the State of Hawaii,” Olmstead said. “How does this go on for 38 minutes?”
Although McPherron said she was glad that the emergency notification systems used Saturday were in place, she dismissed officials’ claims that the alert was mistakenly sent as a new shift of emergency officials came on-duty Saturday.
“This wasn’t a mistake just caused by a shift change; why aren’t the ‘Are you sure you want to send this message?’ notifications there?” McPherron said. “You terrorized millions of people for no reason at all.”
Scott Gross and Scott Jensen contributed information to this story.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.
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