Usually if you read anything I write it most likely pertains to something about food; cooking it, eating it, researching it and taking pictures of it. So this missive may seem a little off topic.
This morning, January 13, 2018 at 8:08am I was walking down a staircase on my way to getting a cup of coffee with my husband when both of our iPhones registered an emergency alert. I don't get many alerts because I choose to just get "critical" ones.
I dug my cell phone out of my pocket and saw the following message:
I didn't have my glasses on but couldn't quite see or digest what I was reading. I asked my husband "do think this is real"? He wasn't sure either. I asked "where should we go"? I'm familiar with basic procedures for nuclear attacks and have a plan of what to do if I were home but this isn't my home so I was clueless about what our options were in this area. We decided the best thing was to try to get some verification that the alert was real. We headed back to where we were staying and went to the front office. There was one couple, cell phones in hand, talking to each about what to do. They looked very worried. Seeing other people worry made me worry a little more. The people at the desk were fielding questions. They said they got the alert too but they were trying to verify it but they too thought it was false because the air raid siren system did not kick in. I asked the manager "so, where is a safe place, just in case". He just said, you'll be fine right here (I wasn't so sure about that).
A few people said if there was an attack it would most likely be on Oahu because that is where the military bases are. Although I was VERY concerned it seemed more likely to me that the alert system got hacked or there was some error.
The fact of the matter is there was not much to be done. We figured we'd have 15 minutes or so if some missile was headed our way but we were fairly assured that wasn't going to happen. We decided to just march on and go back to our walk. We saw a police car drive by and the officer was on his phone. We were right across the street from one of the siren poles and nothing was going off. A few people were gathering up the street. One person seemed to be a local and one youngish couple were tourists for sure. The local said sirens did go off but I'm not sure where she got that info. We were too close to have not heard it. We all thought it seemed fake but it was concerning to all of us and we waited to receive an alert canceling the first alert, nothing came.
We continued to walk on but I stopped to check my cell phone for any news. I found a twitter message that said it was in fact a false alarm. That was one heck of a false alarm! The walk to our coffee joint is one mile and by the time we arrived most of the people were sitting around making "duck and cover" jokes. I finally got a decent cell phone connection so I could read about what was going on.
So from the time 8:08am when this began it had now been over 20 minutes and there was still no alert rescinding the original alert. After reading some news stories it was pretty clear this was "human error". I continued to read that some people on other islands got pretty panicky. I have to say I did not see a single person who looked panicked. Most people assumed it was a mistake. Clearly that could be a head-in-the-sand attitude but given there just was no supporting information it appeared to be bad information.
Finally, about 38 minutes after the first alert we received a second alert that said the first alert was an error. Huh? Error? Wow, that's a pretty serious mistake. This sounded like the kind of thing that could start an accidental nuclear war. As I sipped my iced coffee I noticed how jovial all the people sitting around us became as it was confirmed we weren't going to be blown to bits.
This was an interesting and momentary "surreal" experience. Once again, all is well that ends well. It has been verified the problem occurred during a shift change and someone "pushed a wrong button". There is a serious problem with a system that allows that mistake to so easily happen. From my perspective I'm glad to be here, in once piece, writing this post. Now, back to my coffee!
I was reminded of a Ronald Reagan quote "trust but verify". Stay level headed, try to obtain the facts.
Not everything others tell you will be correct. Again, to the extent you can, confirm facts but continue to take appropriate action.