Recently somebody pushed the wrong button when testing the ICBM warning system in Hawaii and set off an ICBM warning statewide for 45 minutes.

In all probability ATC would ground departing flights and possibly local ones, but what about inbound flights? Were they ordered to turn back? Continued inbound? What is the procedure for dealing with such a warning?

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    $\begingroup$ Why ground departing flights? The survival of the passengers would be better served by getting them in the air and as far away as possible. $\endgroup$ – GdD Jan 16 '18 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD Who's to say it will get far enough away from any possible EMP? The warning suggested that people "find shelter immediately". Maybe if the aircraft was taxiing out, but not anything still in the process of boarding. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jan 16 '18 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ It's an interesting question that I'm hoping gets some good answers @RonBeyer. $\endgroup$ – GdD Jan 16 '18 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ Related, maybe duplicate: What level of information does a PIC have about a missile crossing their aircraft route? $\endgroup$ – mins Jan 16 '18 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ @mins Related, yes, although the answer to your question is more about NOTAM's about known launches, and doesn't really address what ATC does in an emergency (unknown launch, limited reaction time, etc). $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jan 16 '18 at 18:38

Here's an account that NATCA shared on their facebook page:

Veteran Honolulu Control Facility (HCF) member Steve Olson, recounting the experience of working yesterday:

“8:07am I was plugged in working airplanes like I do every Saturday morning, when the day took a turn into the surreal. Pilot after pilot started to check in with the same question. ‘Center, can you confirm the missile launch?’

“Then, as questions on the control floor were asked, it seemed like every phone in the room started ringing. The word ‘confirmed’ stung like a knife in the gut. As I started to advise the pilots on frequency that the missile launch is confirmed, the frequencies grew silent.

“As I did the only thing I could, continue to take care of the planes in my charge, all I could do was think about the ones I love, my loving wife and amazing kids. With less then 10 minutes there was nothing I could do.

“We found out rather quickly that it was a false alarm, but it seemed like forever.

“With my heart racing and my stomach in my throat, this is what was in my mind. Every day, for the last 29 years, when I leave home for work I hug Meagan, kiss her and tell her I love her. It may sound silly and trite, but today, for 10 long minutes, it mattered.

“Don’t take anything or anyone for granted.”

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    $\begingroup$ While a good account of what happened, it doesn't really say what was done, just that they "took care of the planes in my charge". I wonder if that meant getting them on the ground, turning some around, etc. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jan 16 '18 at 16:58

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