False alert on radioactive danger creates panic
WAILUKU » An emergency broadcast test turned into a brief moment of panic and confusion for some television viewers in Hawaii when instead of issuing a "radio weather test," the National Weather Service issued a "radiological hazard warning."
The broadcast test is sent out to television and radio stations statewide.
"I hollered and called my partner," recalled Lisa Long of Kona, who was watching CNN.
Long said she and her partner, who have been worried about potential radioactivity on the Big Island, have a Geiger counter and turned it on.
She said the Geiger counter failed to detect any radioactive reading above normal in her home, but she was not persuaded that everything was OK, because the equipment was not geared toward measuring air particles.
Long said she feared an explosion might have happened upon a vessel carrying nuclear warheads at Pearl Harbor.
National Weather Service meteorologist Ian Morrison said officials were conducting a weekly radio test when the wrong code was activated at 11:40 a.m.
Morrison said the code for radiological hazard warning is "RHT" and listed right above the radio weather test code of "RWT."
"They're all listed together," Morrison said.
Honolulu emergency management spokesman John Cummings said his department received at least a dozen calls from the news media.
Cummings said within 10 to 15 minutes of receiving the calls, the National Weather Service issued a correction.
"Things like this do happen," he said.