BREAKING NEWS Rochester Public Schools: A mix of in-class learning for some, distance learning for others Full Story

911 calls capture confusion when Hawaii false missile alert went out

They're 911 calls that cover the spectrum of emotion.Fear: "The whole family, all scared, you know?"Dis...

Posted: Mar 24, 2018 3:04 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2018 3:04 PM

They're 911 calls that cover the spectrum of emotion.

Fear: "The whole family, all scared, you know?"

Disbelief: "Was that a typo? A really, really bad typo?"

Anger: "Somebody needs to get their a-- whooped!"

The calls were placed to the Honolulu Police Department on January 13 -- the morning a phone text alert was mistakenly sent out, warning of an incoming ballistic missile threat to Hawaii.

"Seek immediate shelter," it read, injecting panic into more than a million Hawaiians and tourists with its ominous tag line. "This is not a drill."

Honolulu police this week released 24 calls at the request of local media, calling them representative of 2,000-plus calls placed to dispatchers at the height of the confusion. CNN affiliate KHON posted the calls on its website.

The state had already been on edge on the day of confusion, having undergone various missile drills after learning North Korea possessed a long-range missile that could reach Hawaii.

After the alert went out at 8:07 a.m. local time, police dispatchers -- who were not responsible for the mistake -- were just as confused as the callers and were relying on the media for information.

Several times, callers were instructed to watch CNN.

"At this time, we're trying to see on the news, like CNN, cause we just got the message, too, and we don't have any answers," a dispatcher told one caller two minutes after the alert went out.

"I don't own a TV, what should I do?" the woman replied.

"OK, if anything... do you have radio access?" the dispatcher asked.

"I don't know, no I don't," she said, sounding disoriented with confusion. "I have just Internet. Should I go to a neighbor?"

"Can you please? Cause we don't have the answer either because we just got the message too, just now, I'm sorry," the dispatcher said.

By 8:15 a.m. -- eight minutes after the alert -- police dispatchers were finally warned of the mistake, which occurred when a state employee hit the wrong button during a planned drill.

But it would be 30 minutes after that before the public would get that same information declaring a false alarm. In that time, many callers were still in the dark, hearing from dispatchers about the mistake for the first time.

Caller: "My hotel is under alert, is that true?"

Dispatcher: "OK, that information is wrong. The information is wrong. That was a mistake. There is no danger."

"Yeah, they're idiots," another caller said, after being told of the state's error.

Even after the public received its second alert -- the "all clear" at 8:45 a.m -- many 911 callers still appeared confused and afraid. Others simply vented in anger.

Caller: "North Korea could have landed their missiles in 20 minutes, everybody knows that!

Dispatcher: "I'm sorry, sir. I am so sorry..."

Caller: "Well they need to get the system up and running much better than it is so people are not left hanging, not knowing what to do!"

Dispatcher: "We were in the dark, too. I'm so sorry."

Caller: "911 should get tied to the televisions... nobody in the government of Hawaii is listening to this situation to make something happen! They're giving it mouth service, that's all, mouth service!"

The calls released by police fall into a 61-minute time span from that morning, during which operators were chastised ("That's not an answer, there has to be an answer as to what happened!"), served as counselors and even sounding boards for a wary public.

Caller: "It's not fun, you know, it's not fun. They got to find out who did that, you know?

Dispatcher: "Yes, they do. They do... they're going to find out."

Caller: "Go find out and go catch them, you know? Don't let them go."

The state employee who pushed the wrong button during the drill was eventually fired. According to an investigating officer, he claimed not to know it was an exercise, even though five other employees in the room reported hearing "exercise, exercise, exercise."

Even as chaos was unfolding that morning in the police dispatch center, one operator managed to sum up the event while giving audience to a man who was unsure where to take shelter.

"It was like a wake-up call," she said.

"A wake-up call," the man agreed.

"Yeah, because what if it was real, right?" the dispatcher said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 58640

Reported Deaths: 1677
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin18641828
Ramsey7233261
Dakota4188104
Anoka3515114
Stearns286420
Washington200944
Nobles17536
Olmsted168823
Scott147918
Mower10942
Rice10138
Blue Earth8745
Wright8475
Carver8162
Clay76840
Sherburne7037
Kandiyohi6871
St. Louis48619
Todd4222
Lyon4213
Freeborn3581
Steele3381
Nicollet32913
Benton3153
Watonwan3010
Winona25416
Crow Wing22514
Beltrami2150
Le Sueur2101
Martin2045
Chisago1891
Goodhue1878
Otter Tail1853
Cottonwood1750
Becker1501
McLeod1480
Pipestone1479
Polk1453
Waseca1380
Douglas1360
Itasca13512
Carlton1320
Unassigned13241
Pine1280
Dodge1250
Murray1221
Isanti1160
Chippewa1011
Wabasha870
Brown862
Meeker852
Morrison851
Faribault830
Sibley822
Rock770
Koochiching743
Pennington731
Jackson720
Cass712
Mille Lacs693
Renville625
Fillmore610
Lincoln540
Grant523
Swift521
Yellow Medicine510
Pope460
Roseau460
Houston410
Norman370
Kanabec321
Redwood320
Wilkin323
Hubbard300
Aitkin291
Marshall290
Mahnomen261
Wadena240
Red Lake230
Big Stone220
Lake200
Stevens170
Clearwater150
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle60
Kittson30
Cook20
Lake of the Woods10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 47424

Reported Deaths: 910
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10032206
Woodbury369151
Black Hawk308463
Linn227987
Johnson202116
Dallas184635
Buena Vista179112
Scott165514
Dubuque162331
Marshall142525
Pottawattamie128426
Story114114
Wapello87233
Muscatine84048
Webster7727
Crawford7263
Sioux6143
Cerro Gordo59617
Warren5471
Tama54529
Jasper46626
Wright4551
Plymouth4528
Louisa38014
Dickinson3774
Clinton3623
Washington29310
Boone2442
Hamilton2441
Franklin2339
Bremer2037
Clarke1953
Emmet1882
Carroll1851
Shelby1771
Clay1761
Hardin1730
Marion1620
Allamakee1544
Poweshiek1538
Des Moines1522
Jackson1481
Benton1461
Floyd1432
Mahaska13917
Guthrie1315
Cedar1281
Jones1272
Buchanan1231
Hancock1212
Butler1192
Henry1193
Pocahontas1151
Madison1142
Lyon1092
Lee1073
Cherokee1031
Clayton1023
Harrison1020
Humboldt1001
Delaware991
Taylor960
Iowa941
Monona910
Winneshiek911
Mills850
Page850
Calhoun832
Kossuth830
Sac820
Fayette810
Jefferson800
Palo Alto800
Osceola790
Mitchell780
Winnebago770
Grundy761
Union751
Monroe697
Worth650
Lucas574
Chickasaw540
Montgomery534
Davis521
Cass501
Howard490
Appanoose473
Greene390
Fremont370
Van Buren341
Keokuk331
Ida290
Audubon281
Adair270
Decatur230
Ringgold211
Wayne191
Adams160
Unassigned30
Rochester
Scattered Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 79°
Mason City
Broken Clouds
80° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 83°
Albert Lea
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 84°
Austin
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 84°
Charles City
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 81°
Warming temps and rain inbound
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Giving your best volunteer of the month

Image

Sara's 6pm Forecast - Friday

Image

Developing Broadband for Telecommuting

Image

Solar Panel Project at NIACC

Image

City Works to Clear Out Homeless Encampment

Image

WWII Planes at Mason City Airport

Image

Relay for Life Tomorrow

Image

Cascade Lake Beach Reopens

Image

RPS Announces Plan for 2020-21 School Year

Image

Seans Weather 8/7

Community Events