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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > May June 2018 > ‘Ballistic Missile Threat Inbound … This is Not a Drill’: The Formidable Threat of False Alarms

‘Ballistic Missile Threat Inbound … This is Not a Drill’: The Formidable Threat of False Alarms

At approximately 8:07 am on January 13, 2018, the state of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency in Honolulu sent out a frightening alert on TV, radio, and cell phones across all of Hawaii: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” A second alert saying the original alert was a false alarm was transmitted thirty-eight minutes after the initial broadcast. The episode transpired during a period of heightened tension between the United States and North Korea, and it generated widespread fear and anxiety. A member of the state’s House of Representatives, Matthew LoPresti, told CNN: “I was sitting in the bathtub with my children, saying our prayers” (Cohen 2018). The New York Times reported that “People flocked to shelters, crowding highways in scenes of terror and helplessness” (Nagourney et al. 2018).

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