KHOU 11 staffer caught up in missile scare while on vacation in Hawaii

A false emergency alert had people running for cover in a panic in Hawaii on Saturday and a KHOU 11 staff member was caught up in the chaos while on vacation.

MAUI - A false emergency alert had people running for cover in a panic in Hawaii on Saturday and a KHOU 11 staff member was caught up in the chaos while on vacation.

The false alarm warned of an alleged missile strike.

KHOU 11 Assistant News Director Josh Hubbard and his family have been in Maui for the past week on vacation and Saturday was last day on the island before heading back home to Houston.

However, Saturday morning turned out to be a part of their trip they probably won’t ever forget. 

"Eating breakfast at around 8 o’clock on the patio and we hear that sound, you know, that Amber Alert sound, we all heard during Harvey." Hubbard said during a Facetime call on Saturday. "So we looked at our phones, ‘hey there’s a missile approaching.'"

The sounds of sirens blared soon after the emergency alert was sent out to everyone on the island.

Frantic locals and tourists scrambled for shelter.

As far as they knew, they might only have minutes left to live.

"At first, I thought it was a false alarm, a test or something. But right underneath it, it says ‘this is not a test, seek shelter,' you know we’re freaking out a little bit because North Korea’s not that far away and anything’s possible.” he said. 

Hubbard said he called the hotel’s front desk and they instructed him and his family to stay put in their hotel room.

But not long after that, the staff changed their minds.

"They get on the loud speaker and they say 'Everyone please go down to the basement,' that’s the video I posted on Twitter." Hubbard said.

So that’s what they did.

"The people in the hotel, they didn’t know what to do. I’m sure they’d thought about it but they didn’t really have any plan in place to be like 'OK, we’re going to get out of the way of a missile coming this way.'” he said. 

They gathered among the other frightened guests, unsure if this was it, the day North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un pushed the button.

But luckily, someone else mistakenly pushed a button.

About 40 minutes later, Hawaii’s emergency management agency announced it was all an accident.

One of the agency’s workers hit a button unintentionally during a shift change that sent out the alert. It was a relief for everyone on and off the island. 

A vacation memory that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

“It’s pretty scary to everyone here, everyone’s enjoying a great vacation, and if you live in Hawaii and you know this threat is possible. To have it happen like that to be a test, it’s crazy. It’s scary to everybody.” Hubbard said. 

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said on social media Saturday the panel would launch an investigation.

With the threat of missiles from North Korea on people's minds, the state reintroduced the Cold War-era warning siren tests last month that drew international attention. But there were problems there, too.

Even though the state says nearly 93 percent of the state's 386 sirens worked properly, 12 mistakenly played an ambulance siren.

At the tourist mecca of Waikiki, the sirens were barely audible, prompting officials to add more sirens there and to reposition ones already in place.

© 2018 KHOU-TV


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