Hawaiians were sent into a panic on Saturday after a false alert claimed that a ballistic missile was heading for the islands.
The alert was sent out due to human error, Hawaii Gov. David Ige told CNN.
“It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the change over of a shift and an employee pushed the wrong button,” Gov. Ige said. “The warning went out to cell phones, television and radio got the emergency alert.”
Around 1 p.m. ET, social media lit up with Hawaiian residents and visitors who received cellphone alerts warning that a projectile was heading for the island. The message, which was transmitted by the Civil Defense department, was accompanied by an ominous warning that the alarm was “not a drill.”
The erroneous alert sent recipients into a state of frenzy, with scores reportedly running for shelter and taking cover, until Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard debunked the alert as a false alarm. Hawaiian officials, as well as the U.S. Pacific Command, followed suit but not until nearly 40 minutes later.
“State Warning Point has issued a Missile Alert in ERROR! There is NO threat to the State of Hawaii,” U.S. Pacific Command’s David Benham said in a statement.
Michael Kucharek, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command are still trying to verify what happened in Hawaii — but that “NORAD did not see anything that indicated any sort of threat” to the island.
“From a NORAD perspective and that of the U.S. Northern Command, we are still trying to verify what happened,” he said of the false alert.
NORAD is a U.S.-Canada joint command that conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning to defend North America. The U.S. Northern Command, also based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is tasked with air, land and sea defense of the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico and portions of the Caribbean.
President Donald Trump was said to be at Trump International Golf Course in Florida when the false alert was sent out, but was briefed after the alert sent Hawaiians scrambling for cover.
“The President has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise. This was purely a state exercise,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission confirmed to NBC News that it’s launching an investigation into the false emergency alert.