WATCH: This weekend’s missile scare in Hawaii caused chaos and confusion for many. A couple from Ladysmith vacationing in the state recounts the terrifying moments when the emergency alert was sent. Isabelle Raghem reports.
Hawaii is a paradise, but a false alarm sent the islands into a panic Saturday morning.
“When it first happened they said you’ve got 15 to 20 minutes and it’ll hit, so you kind of start counting at that point,” said Tim Evans of Ladysmith who is vacationing in Kihei on Maui.
He and his wife were stunned when they receive a message on their phone Saturday that read “Ballistic missile threat inbound Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”
“I saw the workers running down to the beach, getting everybody off the beach and telling them to go to their room. But some people just stood there because I think they were in shock,” Janet Evans told CHEK Sunday.
“I kind of thought back to every Pearl Harbour movie I’ve ever watched where they say ‘this is not, this is not a drill,” Kris Olsen told CHEK Sunday, via Skype from Kauai.
He says the alert worried his family in Nanaimo.
“We were looking for signs of military activity cause we’re close to a significant marine base but there were no sirens, no planes going,” added Olsen.
After nearly 40 minutes, another text went out saying there was no missile and it was all a false alarm.
“I think we were relieved,” said Janet Evans.
“Just more or else like, is this really happening?” added Tim Evans.
Many questioned how this happened. Hawaii’s governor said Saturday “an employee pushed the wrong button.”
“Mistakes are made but man, that’s a pretty serious one,” said Olsen.
For the Evans from Ladysmith, it has them thinking about home and the risks on Vancouver Island.
“I wonder what we would do if there was a major earthquake. Do we have that kind of cellphone technology?” said Janet Evans.
B.C.’s Ministry of Emergency Management told CHEK Sunday, they say are working with the feds to implement a National Alerting System by April 2018 that will send TV, radio and cellphone alerts.
“It was a beautiful day yesterday and I thought well, you know if it all comes to a terminus this is [a] pretty good place to be,” added Olsen.
Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz went on his Twitter account and called the incident “totally inexcusable.”
He is calling for accountability and an alert process that is foolproof.
AGAIN FALSE ALARM. What happened today is totally inexcusable. The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 13, 2018
Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency released a statement soon after.
“We understand that false alarms such as this can erode public confidence in our emergency notification systems,” the agency said. “We understand the serious nature of the warning alert systems and the need to get this right 100 per cent of the time.”
Governor David Ige also apologized in the release and says improvements are on the way.
?I know first-hand how today?s false alarm affected all of us here in Hawaii, and I am sorry for the pain and confusion it caused,” he said. “I, too, am extremely upset about this and am doing everything I can do to immediately improve our emergency management systems, procedures and staffing.”
Rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have led Hawaii, one of the closest states to North Korea, to prepare for such an attack.