WAILEA, Hawaii — Shortly after 8 a.m. local time, Saturday, residents of Hawaii received an emergency text notice to their phones: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
In Wailea, on the island of Maui, Hawaiian Eye/Retina 2018 had just settled in to the morning Oculoplastics Symposium when the alert went out. This sent attendees and staff into a drill they were not anticipating.
While there seemed to be no formal sheltering plan in place, hotel and meeting staff mobilized quickly to move attendees to a safe location inside the Grand Wailea hotel.
At 38 minutes after the first alert, a second emergency alert was issued: There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False alarm.
“Our staff, along with hotel staff, acted quickly to move attendees who were in sessions at the time to a sheltered location. We are thankful for the professionalism and calming force of the faculty who were at the podium at the time and that we could resume sessions a short time after the announcement that the missile alert was an error,” said Peter Slack, CEO/President of the Wyanoke Group, who presents the Hawaiian Eye meeting.
Stress turned to gallows humor for speakers and attendees alike.
“We are skipping the breaks to make up for our missile time,” session moderator Wendy W. Lee, MD, told the audience after the resumption of the program.
As she began her lecture, speaker Joely Kaufmann, MD, quipped, “Sorry I’m late. I was stuck in the ‘missile room’ at the Four Seasons, but Magic Johnson was there, so that was cool.” – by David W. Mullin