38 minutes in Hawaii prove many are unprepared for emergencies
For 38 minutes on January 13, at around 8 a.m., many people on the Hawaiian Islands panicked as the state issued a missile threat warning that emphasized it was not a drill.
"We were in Hawaii on a vacation," James Branin, a contractor from Wasilla said. "My wife was on a run at the time. I was just waiting for her to get back and we were going to go out and enjoy our day. She called me and asked if I knew anything about an alert."
Most everyone on the islands received an alert, and if they didn’t, someone close to them did. The drawn-out false alarm left many people not knowing what to do.
“Thirty-eight minutes is a long time when you’re thinking it might be, you know,” Branin said. “It’s not long enough but yet, it seems like it was a long time, it’s weird to try and explain that.”
Candis Olmstead was also visiting the islands from Anchorage, along with her daughter.
"My daughter's friend attends college at the University of Hawaii," Olmstead said. "At around 8:10 a.m. or 8:15 a.m., the friend said she got kind of a weird, scary text on her phone from the emergency system they have here. It says there is a ballistic missile coming."
Many people received the message on their phones and were unsure if it was real or not.
"A lot of people were wondering, 'is this a prank,' 'did someone hack the website or something,'" Branin said. "A lot of questions were being asked."
A lot of calls were being made to the islands from all over, including the Anchorage area, as Rheyvie Bullecer tried to get in touch with family living on the island, as well as her coworker visiting the islands.
"We have a lot of family in Hawaii, and we all didn't know what was going on and they said there was some mass text messages going through their phones about a missile going through," Bullecer said. "Our family is from Kalihi, so there is not really much around there."
Rheyvie was able to get into contact with her cousin, Jevin Guieb, who told family members he was okay.
"There was so much talk about incoming missiles and things," Guieb said. "In that instant, it became a reality. It put me into action mode. I started texting friends, receiving texts from friends, and I alerted my church group about what to do. We had conversations about what to do next. Who needs help and where is the nearest bomb shelter."
Candis Olmstead stayed calm and came up with three different plans of action.
"When I saw the alert via text say-- in capital letters-- this is not a drill, that is when it kind of hit me," Olmstead said. "'Holy crap, what is going on right now. This is actually kind of scary.' Then I thought this is probably some kind of hack or hoax or error, but at the same time, I just didn't want to assume nothing. I need to prepare as if it is something and react accordingly."
James Branin reacted much in the same way.
"There were rumors that it was a false alarm," Branin said. "You want to latch onto the rumor rather than the reality that it might be the real thing. I have a camelback, which I used as my carry on luggage. It has a water bladder in it. In fact, I was getting ready to fill it up because I figured if we needed anything it was going to be water and food, but we didn't have a lot of food."
Residents on the island went through a different stage of survival mode, trying to find places to take cover.
"What is a bomb shelter, where is it and what do we do," Guieb said. "It's a small island, so we have a lot of friends and we were just conversing about what to do next. You really don't think about these things and I didn't know where to go next. I didn't know what should be done next, all I did know was that I needed to contact my friends and see how they were doing."
Family back in Anchorage didn't know what do to either.
"We weren't sure where they were going to go or what the protocols for the state were, as well," Bullecer said. "Everybody was scared, like frantic."
Many people on the island went into survival mode.
"I contacted some people in the hotel lobby to see if they had a basement," Branin said. "They did, and I think they were going to let a lot of us down there. Never had to, luckily."
"We got a message in the hotel that there wasn't much we could do," Olmstead said. "It made it feel more real when we got that announcement in the hotel room, but we kept doing what we were doing, which was trying to get ready. We finally got on Twitter and was told it was an accident. So, now we're sitting there with all this random information."
The message would turn out to be a false alarm, and even though relief set in for many people, some others shared their frustrations.
"When something like that happens, you really truly realize how unprepared you are," Olmstead said. "The truth is, where do we really have to go?"
"There was relief and anger," Branin said. "You can't get people amped up like that."
Others looked at it as a blessing in disguise.
"It turned out to be a good thing because it helped a lot of us figure out what to do and where to go," Guieb said. "I live on Oahu and had no idea where to go."
According to Alaska Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the best thing anyone can do is still indoors. Find a place you feel is safe and don't go outside.
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