This Wednesday, emergency sirens were set off across Hawaii, causing confusion among the citizens from Waianae to Waikiki. Kahului island also experienced at least one mistakenly sounded siren, yet the cause for its activation is unclear.
The Police Department of Honolulu stated they were responsible for the false alarm in Oahu. As they say, someone unintentionally triggered them during a training exercise. Susan Ballard, Police Chief, apologized to the public for this mistake, saying that the Department needs to do better.
She said that the alarm was triggered during the training of dispatchers. That happened because trainees use live equipment instead of training software. Chief Ballard stated that the police would make sure that, in the future, they train only on training equipment.
According to the Department of Emergency Management, the sirens were sounded around 5:10 p.m., and in 12 minutes, state agencies confirmed that they were erroneously activated. The Department assured the public that there was no reason to panic. Mayor Caldwell stated the same in his tweet just several minutes after the alarm was triggered.
People of Oahu found themselves in a panic, trying to figure out what was happening. HNN newsroom and the state Department of Emergency Management received dozens of calls from worried citizens within seconds after the sirens sounded. Meanwhile, Honolulu National Weather Service reassured residents via Twitter that there was no tsunami alert active.
Many took to social media to express their frustration by this occurrence. Chad Hustad wrote on Facebook that this seemed like a cry wolf scenario and asked how people could take the emergency alarms seriously with these kinds of incidents. Patrick Green described the situation as “extra nerve-wracking” because the first thought was that it couldn’t be a false alert again.
The situation reminded many of the incidents with the missile alert from January 13, 2018, when an employee of the Emergency Management Agency activated the alarm because he thought that there was a threat over Hawaii. The accident produced headlines nationwide and investigations into state preparedness for real emergencies that lasted for months.