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Originally published on January 13, 2018 5:12 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to hear now about the false alarm that set off a panic in Hawaii this morning. Tourists and locals were just waking up as their phones buzzed with a short emergency alert. The notification said a ballistic missile threat was inbound. Those who turned on their TVs were met with the same message. This is not a drill. As NPR's Miles Parks reports, the false alarm seems to have been caused by pushing the wrong button.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Brian Bakst was in the kitchen of his vacation rental in Maui with his wife and two kids when his phone buzzed. The emergency notification he saw shocked him. Here he is reading it off his phone.

BRIAN BAKST: Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.

PARKS: He turned on the TV and saw the same thing. He went searching for a non-tourist on the property but couldn't find anyone immediately.

BAKST: That kind of startles you first thing in the morning and especially in a place where you don't know what to do or what shelter means.

PARKS: They eventually settled on huddling together in the shower, doing their best to stay positive, waiting for more information along with the rest of the state's population - all of whom received the harrowing warning as well. Stories abounded online of people hiding wherever they could - garages and storm drains and texting loved ones. More than half an hour later, they all finally got relief. It was a false alarm sent to the entire state by Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency. Here's Hawaii's governor, David Ige.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID IGE: It was a procedure that occurs at the change of shift where they go through to make sure that the system is working. And an employee pushed the wrong button.

PARKS: The chairman of the FCC said the agency is launching an investigation into the alert. And the White House said President Trump was briefed on the issue. Brian Bakst posted a live vacation recap on Twitter after the all-clear went out - went to the beach, saw some whales, ate some yummy fish, took shelter from a nuclear strike in a condo shower. Fun trip, he wrote. Miles Parks, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.