Could a false missile alert happen in Michigan?

Michigan emergency operations center
Inside Michigan's emergency operations center at Michigan State Police headquarters near Lansing.


WINDSOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — There was another false missile alert Tuesday, this time in Japan.

It came from national broadcaster NHK, not the government. NHK issued an on-air apology after issuing a false alert incorrectly claiming that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile.

Last week, an alert falsely warning of an inbound ballistic missile was accidentally sent in Hawaii, causing many there to panic.

Michigan has a system that can send alerts for large-scale emergencies. So could a false alarm happen here?

“When you say ‘could it happen,’ anything is possible,” Michigan State Police Capt. Chris Kelenske, the deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said. “Do we have things in place to ensure that that doesn’t happen? Yes.”

On Tuesday, Kelenske granted 24 Hour News 8 access to the state emergency operations center at MSP headquarters southwest of Lansing.

He said if Michigan got word of a threat from national security, state officials would gather at the center. Only three people could authorize a public alert: the governor, the lieutenant governor or the director of MSP.

“If we are going push a message out, it has been fully vetted by the appropriate officials,” Kelenske said.

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Officials in Hawaii said only one person was needed to send the alert and message was stored in the system. That’s not how it works in Michigan.

“By the time the information gets to our operations lieutenant, we’ve already crafted that message for them. We are not telling our officers to put out  a message to us,” Kelenske explained.

Not only does the message have to be typed in to the system, it will be deleted automatically if it is not sent in 15 seconds. The user is asked at least three times if they are sure they want to send the message.

“Hawaii is in a very different situation. They are very close to a very serious threat,” said Kelenske. “Any time you are dealing with humans, there is a risk, something can go wrong, but this is why we train.”

If the threat is real, experts say you should do three things: Get inside, stay inside and stay tuned for more information.