Many British Columbians on vacation in Hawaii got a confusing wakeup call on Saturday when the state's emergency management department sent out a mistaken warning about a ballistic missile.

Nadia van Der Heyden, from Vancouver, was heading out for a walk on the beach with her mother when they got the alert. They weren't sure what to do or where to go.

"There were some county workers nearby who were scrambling to their radios so it was mostly confusion. People weren't sure what to do," she told CTV News.

Patrick Kinney and his wife Debbie Kinney, from North Vancouver, were on their way to a farmer's market when the missile alert came to their phones. Then, a warning came across the radio. They noticed cars on the road started pulling to the side.

"You could see the panic in people," Patrick said. "They were leaving the market."

To add to the confusion, he said he also couldn't make calls from his cellphone. He assumed the network was overwhelmed.

Dianna Lund, also from Vancouver, was out for a run when her phone made a mysterious alarm noise and showed her the message.

Her condo in Hawaii is made of wood, and she said she had no idea where to seek shelter.

"I've been trying to google that since," she said.

Patrick, meanwhile, questioned if scrambling to find shelter would have made a difference.

"If a nuclear bomb is coming to Hawaii, you can't hide from a nuclear blast," he said.

Still, others across the state did try to hide. One video shows parents trying to shelter their children down storm drains. Another shows hotel guests seeking safety in the basement.

In a video taken from a golf course, a man says his final goodbyes.

"If you're watching this video that means I didn't make it," he says in the footage.

It wasn't until 38 minutes after the initial alert that a second notification went out, insisting there was no threat and that the first was a false alarm.

The governor later admitted an employee at the emergency management system pressed the wrong button.

"It was a procedure that occurs at the change of shift where the go through to make sure the system is working and an employee pushed the wrong button," he said.

The state is now investigating how it happened.

Metro Vancouver travelers are just thankful it was all a misunderstanding.

"You just didn't know. You had no sense of whether this was really a threat," said van Der Heyden. "And … if it is really a threat, is there anything you can do?"

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Scott Roberts