Allen family panics when daughter gets 'incoming missile' alert

A false alarm that warned of a ballistic missile headed for Hawaii sent the islands into a panic Saturday, with people abandoning cars in a highway and preparing to flee their homes until officials said the cellphone alert was a mistake. A local father te

ALLEN, TX—An Allen couple is relieved to know that their daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren are safe after emergency officials in Hawaii accidentally sent an alert this Saturday morning detailing an imminent missile attack.

The alert started showing up on phones around 8 AM.

It read in all caps, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

Panic spread throughout the islands for an estimated 30 minutes, until state officials confirmed that the alert was a false alarm.

The Hawaiian Emergency Management Agency later said that it accidentally sent the alert by pushing a wrong button.

The fear was felt more than 3,000 miles away in Allen, TX.

Larry and Dorothy Woodruff got a picture of the alert from their daughter Jennifer Johnston.

Johnston, a native Texan, lives in Kauai with her husband and three children.

She followed up with a text that read, “I can’t talk right now, but please pray for us…there has been a ballistic missile warning. We have taken shelter…I will call when we are ok. Please pray.”

“My heart stopped,” Dorothy said. “We just started praying, and forwarded the text to our older daughter in Oklahoma so she could be praying.”

A huge weight was lifted in the Woodruff’s home once they learned the alert was a false alarm.

“Yes, huge relief,” Larry said. “We were really worried. At first, I thought it was a hoax, but I knew my daughter wouldn’t just send me something like that.”

Now state officials in Hawaii are taking heat. Many are questioning if the emergency alert system needs more oversight, especially as tensions rise with North Korea.

The Woodruffs told News 8 that someone needs to be held accountable.

“That’s like someone yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded building, you just don’t do that,” Larry said.

WFAA was at the Woodruff’s home when Johnston finally got some downtime to FaceTime with her parents.

She said there are many lessons to be learned from the mishap.

“It does put into perspective to make sure we’re prepared at home in case this really does happen,” Johnston said.  

And after today, the Woodruffs are no longer taking their daily calls with their daughter for granted.

© 2018 WFAA-TV


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