For about 10 agonizing minutes on Wednesday, communities across the Hawaiian island of Oahu and in Kahului, Maui, were “sent into a panic” after the sounding of emergency sirens, local media reported. Residents frantically called their local newspapers and radio stations in an attempt to figure out what had happened and deluged the phone lines of state agencies and police.
“UMMMM WHY DID THE SIRENS JUST GO OFF,” one Honolulu resident tweeted at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. “CAN Y’ALL JUST SAY SOMETHING????”
Minutes later, at 5:18 p.m. local time, the agency tweeted that the sirens had been sounded by mistake by the Honolulu Police Department.
“NO EMERGENCY at this time,” Hawaii EMA wrote.
According to officials, the sirens were set off at around 5:10 p.m.
The police department later apologized, saying someone had accidentally triggered the sirens during a training exercise.
“I just want to apologize to the public,” police Chief Susan Ballard told Hawaii News Now. “It was just a very simple mistake. We need to do better.”
Ballard said the training had been conducted using live equipment rather than training software.
“We realize we need to make sure that we’re training on training equipment only,” she said.
The siren error was reminiscent of the ballistic missile alert that was mistakenly triggered by a state employee in Hawaii in January 2018.
During that incident, it took authorities about 38 minutes to announce that the alert had been sent erroneously. In the time that elapsed, panicked residents rushed to take shelter and sent messages of “Goodbye” and “I love you” to loved ones.
Hawaii residents expressed frustration that they’d been subjected to yet another false alarm.