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Hawaiian residents were briefly but intensely disturbed this morning by a state-wide alert via TV and phone warning of an incoming ballistic missile. It was, however, shortly afterwards confirmed to be a mistake caused by “human error.” Hawaiian Senator Brian Schatz called the false alarm “inexcusable” and said to expect “tough and quick accountability and a fixed process.”

The alert went out at a little after 8 AM Hawaiian time, appearing on phones as an emergency services popup and broadcast on TV as a detailed warning of how to seek shelter. “This is not a drill,” it concluded.

Authorities quickly issued followups to calm the no doubt panicking populace, but I imagine it’s hard to do that properly when you’ve just told everyone in the state to seek shelter and lie on the floor.

Given the current state of international relations, particularly with North Korea, it’s hard to imagine how a simple human error could have resulted in such a major alert.

The “human error,” of course, does not necessarily have to be one in which someone mistakenly sent the alert; the Emergency Management Agency might have received false information, or misinterpreted radar data, or any number of options. There’s no indication this was any kind of hack or deliberate interference with the alert system.

I’ve asked the EMA and the Senator’s office for more information and will update this post if I hear back.

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