Karleen Chinen

The “Year of the Dog” began happily for Gov. David Ige. With three years under his belt as Hawai‘i’s chief executive, he was looking forward to launching his campaign for a second term. But his glee quickly turned into a nightmare on the morning of Jan. 13, when many cell phones, but not all, blared a warning message about an incoming nuclear missile, saying the alert was not a drill. Panic ensued throughout the state. The alert turned out to be a false alarm, mistakenly triggered by an employee of the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency, or HI-EMA.

On television newscasts that evening, Gov. David Ige stood before cameras to explain what had happened and why it had taken 38 minutes to cancel the alert. But eight months later, the incident continues to dog the governor as he battles for re-election.

“I’ve not run from it,” Ige told the Herald in wide-ranging interview in early July. “So, let’s go to that 38 minutes,” he said. “The alert went off and me, like everyone else, was startled by the alert. Security rapped on the door: ‘Protocol is we take you to the shelter.’” Ige said he knew “there was no capability for a missile launch, so I said I’m going to confirm. I tried to contact Emergency Management. The lines were all busy. Continued to make calls. The adjutant general (Joe Logan) finally called me to confirm that it was a false alert.

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