U.S. News

Governor, FCC vow probe into false alarm that sent Hawaii scrambling for cover

Key Points
  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai promised a "full investigation" into a false emergency alert that warned Hawaiians of a non-existent missile attack on Saturday.
  • Hawaii Governor David Ige said that local investigations are underway now.
  • Hawaiian officials and NORAD attributed the false alert to human error, not hackers.
Chairman Ajit Pai, Chanirman of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington.
Aaron P. Bernstein | Reuters

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and Hawaii governor David Ige vowed to investigate a false emergency alert that warned an incoming ballistic missile was on the verge of striking the islands Saturday morning.

The mistaken alert, which was attributed human error, warned that a projectile was heading for Hawaii. The snafu sent panicked residents scrambling to find shelters before they realized the alarm was unwarranted.

Michael Kucharek, a 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 islands.

Ige wrote on Twitter that a probe is already underway in the state, involving Hawaii's Department of Defense and the the islands' Emergency Management Agency.


At a federal level, FCC Chariman Ajit Pai also promised "a full investigation into the false emergency alert."


The state was only able to recall the alert 40 minutes after it was originally dispatched, which left fear-stricken residents in limbo awaiting catastrophe. In the incident's wake, a battery of officials that included Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, took to social networks to inform Hawaii residents and visitors that the alert was a mistake.

Tulsi tweet

Gabbard, told MSNBC in an interview that she questioned why the error wasn't corrected more swiftly. "What my family went through and what so many families in Hawaii just went through is a true realization that they have 15 minutes to seek some form of shelter or else they're dead — gone," she told the network.

File photo of an ER tech escorting a victim of a mock nuclear blast into the decontamination tent during a disaster drill at Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Getty Images

The alarm came on an otherwise picturesque day on the islands, and stoked fears of a North Korean missile attack. Jodi Luchs, a doctor visiting Hawaii from Merrick, N.Y., told CNBC that he was enjoying breakfast at his hotel when every guest received the mistaken warning simultaneously.

hawaii now

"Most people were obviously very relieved about everything, [but] the concern was real given that the wording of the message did not leave much to the imagination," Luchs told CNBC. "With tensions with North Korea, everyone regarded this as a serious threat."

--CNBC's Javier E. David contributed to this article.