Hawaii’s missile alert and nuclear panic

Apparently the false alarm ballistic missile warning in Hawaii was caused by someone clicking on the wrong link on a poorly designed selection screen.

This is real. Provided by the Office of the Governor in Hawaii.

Hawaii Emergency Management wouldn’t display the rest of the screen due to security reasons

The BMD False Alarm link is the added feature to prevent further mistakes

Presumably that wouldn’t stop the wrong link being clicked in error, it would make it simpler to advise that a false alarm had been set off.

It took a remarkable 38 minutes to advise the public that the missile alert was a false alarm last week, plenty of time for many people to panic and fear for their lives.

ODT editorial: Lessons from incoming alert error

Last month, the Star-Advertiser reported a missile launched from North Korea could strike Hawaii within 20 minutes.

So, Hawaii has reintroduced Cold War-era warning sirens. However, an early-morning emergency alert mistakenly warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack was dispatched to cellphones across Hawaii at the weekend.

Hawaii was already on high alert because of the threat from North Korea. The alert at the weekend set off widespread panic among residents, on edge because of the escalating tensions between the two nations.

The alert, sent by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, was revoked 38 minutes after it was issued, prompting confusion over why it was released and why it took so long to rescind.

Officials say the alert was the result of human error and not the work of hackers or a foreign government. The mistake occurred during a shift-change drill that takes place three times a day at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency command post.

A new procedure was immediately instituted after the mistaken alert, requiring two people to now sign off before any such alert is sent.

That’s a good idea. Such an important warning system relying on one person is risky.

There are two important lessons to be learned from Hawaii and Civil Defence. Ensuring safeguards are in place against false alarms is important. Secondly, people need to be confident the alerts mean what they say.

Meanwhile, it will help global anxiety if Mr Trump dials back his war-like rhetoric against North Korea and countries he does not like. Sadly, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Perhaps the White House needs a system where two people have to sign off on any presidential tweets.

The Week: Why Hawaii’s false alarm should be a massive wake-up call for us all

For 38 minutes on Saturday, Hawaiians experienced the very worst sort of nightmare, after a state agency inadvertently sent out a message that a ballistic missile was inbound. “Seek shelter immediately. This is not a drill,” read the terrifying alert that Hawaiians received on their phones and TVs. Distraught residents and visitors did their best to find safety and send tearful final messages to loved ones before the alert was retracted.

President Trump, who was out golfing at the time, made a minor public statement about the false alarm, calling it a “state thing” and saying he loved “that they took responsibility.”

…while it wasn’t the president’s fault that a state employee created an international panic, nor is he the original author of the Korea standoff, there is no question that the unhinged rhetoric and empty threatsemanating from his Twitter account have heightened tensions and increased the risk of accidental calamity.

The mayhem in Hawaii also raised the specter of an accidental nuclear war, long one of the greatest fears of nuclear abolitionists and arms control enthusiasts. While these incidents have largely disappeared down the Cold War memory hole, the history of the nuclear age is replete with near-misses, including one incident in 1961 in which a nuclear-armed B-52 broke apart in mid-flight over North Carolina, releasing its nuclear payload in the process. Multiple “fail-safe” systems failed on two massive thermonuclear bombs and disaster was narrowly averted.

In 1979, National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was awakened suddenly at three in the morning to the news that the Soviets had launched 250 missiles at the United States. Nuclear bombers were put on alert, fighter jets were flung into action, and the president’s command-and-control plane was rushed into the air. Apparently a North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) employee had inserted a simulation tape and tricked the entire system into believing that a massive Soviet ICBM strike was inbound.

“For a few frightening minutes, the U.S. military got ready for a nuclear war,” writes Scott Sagan, whose 1993 book The Limits of Safety walked readers through a terrifying litany of nuclear near-misses and argued that our command-and-control systems are not as infallible as we think they are. That a lone Hawaii state employee was able to set off this kind of panic should be sobering to those who blithely maintain that nuclear war could never happen unintentionally or that our systems have become immune to human error.

The weekend’s throwback Cold War nuclear panic should also lead us to question the president’s blasé attitude about nuclear weapons in general. Not only has President Trump spent much of his first year dangerously stoking tensions with his imbecilic counterpart in Pyongyang, but his night-shift government of ex-military minders seems set to undo decades of American policy by endorsing a new nuclear buildup.

Apart from the risk of global annihilation, expanding America’s nuclear arsenal would be a massive and pointless incineration of national wealth. Studies estimate that the United States has spent about $1 trillion a decade designing, building, and maintaining its nuclear weapon inventory, most of which has always been completely unnecessary.

A massive amount of money for a massive amount of destructive power.

One would hope that the president of the United States would do their best to allay fears of mass destruction, and not stoke uncertainties and tensions.

And one would hope that the US and it’s states would have robust systems for dealing with threats of attack, especially when a nuclear response was a possibility.

The selection screen in Hawaii looks very unassuring.

It may be easier and faster to now send out a false alarm message – but considerable damage may already have been done. What happens next time (if there’s a next time) a false alarm message is issued? Will people sit around waiting for a false alarm message? Ignore it? Or panic again in futility?

Image result for kiss your arse goodbye

 

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25 Comments

  1. False alarm in Japan also.

  2. David

     /  January 17, 2018

    Is there nothing negative that happens that isnt blamed on Trump.

    • Gezza

       /  January 17, 2018

      Depends on the news outlet. Fox, Breitbart & Trump are still blaming everything bad that happens on Obama & Hillary.

  3. NOEL

     /  January 17, 2018

    Going back to that NBC training the instructor was reading from the American 1960 manual sroning on about if the warhead is X megatons and you were X miles from ground zero you need X feet of overhead cover whereas if the warhead was Y Megatons then you would only need Y feet of cover.
    It was at that point that it occurred to me why waste the energy. Yah not going to be able to read the label on the warhead from that distance.

  4. David

     /  January 17, 2018

    Everyone is missing the most important point, the Hawai missile alert system was successfully tested. It works!

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  January 17, 2018

      that’d have to be the most specious point you’ve made this week David and if the nukes should ever start falling no doubt you’ll find the positives in that too … the bombs were successfully tested – they work!

      • David

         /  January 17, 2018

        If North Korea sends a nuke to Hawai, we can be sure of one positive outcome, you won’t need to talk about North Korea ever again except in a historical context. And of course, Trump will get to use his big button.

        You really just need to approach the world in a more positive way, you’ll be a lot happier for it.

  5. Blazer

     /  January 17, 2018

    these false alarms are deliberate to scare people and set the scene for the tough talking …El Trumpedor.

    • PartisanZ

       /  January 17, 2018

      Correct … a frightened populace is a compliant populace … Get people revved-up for various forms of patriotism, e.g. joining the armed forces … agreeing to draconian abuses of human rights in the name of “security”, like censorship, imprisonment without charge or trial upon suspicion of ‘sedition’ … inhuman treatment of conscientious objectors … et al …

      Never mind the fear, terror, hurt, trauma, stress and other effects the “false alarms” have on their own country’s citizens, perhaps especially children …

      But imagine what this would be like for a young couple with a newborn baby …?

  6. Corky

     /  January 17, 2018

    Shows how psychologically unprepared we are in the West for war. A little like New Zealand when we encounter our first terrorist incident. Liberals will be rushing around like headless chooks, while news rooms will be debating how they can present the incident to the nation without using the world Islam.

    The only sane response to this false alarm has been Trumps. His superior IQ tells him there is no way to prepare or survive ( long term) a nuclear strike. So why not play golf and ignore the commotion?

    • PartisanZ

       /  January 17, 2018

      Correct Corky … We should be prepared for war all the time, 24/7, all of us, the entire population …

      In short, we should be as much like North Korea as we possibly can …

      The really dreadful possibility is that these may be preludes to either a ‘false flag’ or highly provoked event which sets off America’s pre-emptive strike …

      • Corky

         /  January 17, 2018

        ”We should be prepared for war all the time, 24/7, all of us, the entire population …”

        if you are insinuating I am hinting at the above, you are wrong.

        • PartisanZ

           /  January 17, 2018

          Nothing to say about “‘false flag’ or highly provoked event which sets off America’s pre-emptive strike …”?

          North Korea is a militarily-militarized country, whereas the United States is a commercially-militarized country …

          They’re equally dangerous, especially with a rogue leader or if they’re being led by rogues …

          • Corky

             /  January 17, 2018

            ”Nothing to say about “‘false flag’ or highly provoked event which sets off America’s pre-emptive strike …””

            No, why should I have something to say? By the way, America is mainly a government military country. Private contractors, while numerous, are mainly found in the R&R sector.

            • PartisanZ

               /  January 17, 2018

              You surely mean America is mainly ruled by a corporate-military government …

  7. George

     /  January 17, 2018

    At least the Early Warning system still works as it should.
    Which will worry a fat short stirrer.
    his life span will be ended 30 minutes after any bungled launch.
    Why are the fake media blaming Trump?

  8. NOEL

     /  January 17, 2018

    Wonder how much panic would have occurred if he had pushed the last option instead?
    Hey dude grab the wax and move.

  9. Trevors_elbow

     /  January 17, 2018

    Yawwnnnn

    Trump!!!! Trump!!!! I tells ya…. its all his fault…..its a conspiracy by Trumpistas to create a fascist state I tell ya…..

    /sarc…..

    Follow The Stranglers advice and just get a grip on yourself….. keep calm and laugh at [p]regressives… emphasis on regressive

    • Gezza

       /  January 17, 2018

      Calm down everybody. Everything is fine …

    • PartisanZ

       /  January 17, 2018

      T_E, this IS the inverse totalitarian State fully functioning with Trump at its head …

      The problem is, of course, it’s not simply a single ‘nation state’, it’s a ‘global hemisphere’.

      At the very least, all of Western Christendom is Trump’s territory or ‘dominion’. Anyone who constitutes a definite or potential Western Ally …

      He is, effectively, our leader …

      … and that’s scarey IMHO

      • Trevors_elbow

         /  January 17, 2018

        Hysteria …

        As Frank Herbert wrote “Fear is the mind killer…”

        Your pist above is very revealing of how you view the world…. and that is just a little scary imho

        • PartisanZ

           /  January 17, 2018

          Compared to your Pro Trumpsteria, or more correctly Trump Obsessional Aggrandizement Dementia Yokel (TOADY), my genuine concern appears relatively calm and quite considered …

  10. Kitty Catkin

     /  January 17, 2018

    I cannot believe that there is no ‘This is a…..are you sure that…..’ as there is on computers for other things. It all sounds very casual. It all LOOKS very casual…there’s not much space between the various things. Given that everyone who uses a computer will click on the wrong thing at some time, this seems unbelievably slack.

    • NOEL

       /  January 17, 2018

      Saw it but couldn’t find it later. The old Microsoft paper clip is been used to parody this with the message “do you really want to do that” .