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False alarm

For nearly 40 minutes on the morning of Saturday 13 January 2018, people in Hawaii thought a ballistic missile had been launched and was heading in their direction. Text alerts had been sent from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency warning people to seek immediate shelter. More detailed emergency drill information appeared on television screens, before it was announced that the alarm had been an error.

Suggested age range: 11–16

Curriculum links: PSHE

An image of the alert sent in error© Info

Ask learners to split into small groups and imagine they were in Hawaii at the time. Groups can represent different people, such as:

  • An adult who lives in Hawaii and is at home with their family
  • A young person who is on holiday with family and friends at the beach
  • A child who is at the supermarket with their parent
  • Friends who are playing football in the park.

Groups could also come up with their own profile, but ensure there is a mixture of groups working on different person profiles and situations.

You can display the image.

Ask learners to discuss with their groups what they think the first reactions of the person could have been when they received the message. How might they be feeling? Would they be calm and organised? Would they be worried? Who might they contact? Where could they go? What object/s might they take with them? Would they leave?

A second text message, 38 minutes later, said there was no threat or danger and the message was a false alarm.

How might the person feel at that point?

Compare and discuss with the whole class.

As a group, think of three different possible reactions that people might have to this news. Which one do learners think is most likely for them personally? Which reaction would they ideally like to have? What might help them to cope?

Discuss practice drills and evacuations learners have been involved in, such as in school. What would they say to someone who was reluctant to follow procedures because they think “it’s probably a false alarm”?


This resource was written by P J White of Alt62 and published in January 2018.


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