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Honolulu’s 911 system overwhelmed during panic

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    Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell addressed the media this afternoon at the City and County Emergency Operations Center.


    Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell listened to Gov. David Ige during a press conference this afternoon at the City and County Emergency Operations Center.

Honolulu’s 911 dispatch system was overwhelmed with more than 5,000 telephone calls — “more than they could handle” — in response to this morning’s false alert of a missile attack, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said today, but no injuries or accidents appear to be related to the ensuing panic and confusion.

Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said about 2,500 callers to 911 could not get through and operators will get back to them to ensure there were no actual emergencies.

Caldwell said the only report of damage he heard of occurred “when a guy in a golf cart” damaged his cart following the alert.

Police officers were notified within minutes that the alert was false, Ballard said. City officials chose to follow existing protocol and waited for state officials who issued the alert to correct the mistake, Ballard said.

But officers used their public address systems to calm people on their beats, Ballard said.

Two fire trucks were handling medical emergencies when the false alert went out at 8:07 a.m. today, Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel “Manny” Neves said. They then returned to their stations.

“Everybody stood their post,” Neves said.

At the same time, TheBus had 320 buses and Handi-Van vehicles on the road, said Roger Morton, CEO of Oahu Transit Services, Inc.

In response to some social media reports that bus passengers were ordered off, Morton said some drivers did urge passengers to get off the bus and seek shelter. And some drivers drove passengers to the police sub-station in Waianae to seek shelter.

“I’m not going to say there weren’t miscommunications,” Morton said.

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