For an excruciating 38-minutes, people in Hawaii were under the impression that they were about to die. A bit after 8 a.m. local time on Saturday, an emergency alert was issued in error, indicating that a ballistic missile had been launched and was inbound.
Chaos immediately ensued.
There were videos of people running in no direction in particular. Stories of families huddled in bath tubs covered by mattresses. Videos of adults ushering children into the sewers.
It was something from a movie, but for those in Hawaii, it was terrifyingly real.
38-minutes. They waited for the end for 38-minutes.
After that time had passed, Hawaiian officials took to radios, televisions, and Twitter to announce that the alert was the result of human error. Yes, human error. In an attempt to run a test, someone clicked the wrong option from a drop-down menu. That seems an extremely cavalier procedure for a system that sends millions of residents and tourists an all-caps alert that death is near.
Can we get some two or three-party verification and approval, please?
Thankfully, it was an error after all. But for those on the Hawaiian islands on Saturday, it’s a moment that will be etched in their psyches forever. This massive error would be terrifying at any moment, but at a time where our leaders and adversaries are exchanging barbs of increasingly fiery rhetoric, it amplifies the horror of reality. Things need to ratchet down, and procedures need to be reevaluated.