Public Safety & Homeland Security

Ballistic Missile Siren Test Ends in Hawaii

'It was decided that all aspects of the ballistic missile preparedness campaign were going to be suspended.'

by William Cole, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser / February 28, 2018

(TNS) - Three months after its debut, Hawaii’s ballistic missile “attack warning” siren has been canceled — along with all other planning on its North Korea preparedness campaign.

Officials confirmed this week that the World War II-type air raid siren — which in the event of a real attack would warn residents to seek immediate shelter — will not be tested Thursday and won’t be back for the foreseeable future.

“It was decided that all aspects of the ballistic missile preparedness campaign were going to be suspended,” Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, a state Department of Defense spokesman, said Tuesday.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s attack warning siren, tested on the first business day of the month at 11:45 a.m. along with the more familiar “attention alert” steady tone alert for tsunamis or hurricanes, was initiated Dec. 1 — despite concerns over possible fear and confusion.

Even after a statewide alert went out Jan. 13 that — falsely — warned of an inbound ballistic missile, terrifying residents and visitors alike for 38 minutes, HI-EMA kept using the attack warning siren, testing it again Feb. 1 along with the long-used attention alert sound.

A Feb. 18 “all-hazards preparedness improvement action plan and report” ordered by the governor and authored by Brig. Gen. Ken Hara, the state’s deputy adjutant general, recommended the suspension of all activities related to the ballistic missile campaign — with the exception of the attack warning siren testing.

The halt in planning except for the siren was so the state’s emergency operations plan addressing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats could be updated, and Hawaii’s residents would know “what to do, where to go, and when to do it,” Hara’s report said.

State planning wracked by shortsightedness is now experiencing inconsistency as to whether the warning siren tests should be used.

State Rep. Gene Ward (R, Hawaii Kai-Kalama Valley) said in an email addressed to Brig. Gen. Moses Kaoiwi, the new interim HI-EMA administrator, that the attack warning siren should be reinstated on a monthly basis.

“This is no time to pretend we should not be on alert for a missile attack, or for you to think the people of Hawaii will forget about the Jan. 13 false alarm if you don’t sound the wailing siren,” Ward said. “This is not a time to save face, but a time to secure the security of these islands.”

Following Hara’s report, Gov. David Ige said he would seek more than $2 million from the Legislature in the short term to build emergency preparedness, with longer-term costs still to be identified.

A strategic plan is expected to cost $800,000. A new administrator also will be hired at HI-EMA after Vern Miyagi resigned following the Jan. 13 false missile alert.

Anthony said he couldn’t provide a timeline for the completion of a new strategic plan.

“Part of that, I think, is really up to whoever the new administrator is,” Anthony said. He added that Kaoiwi, the interim administrator, has started the planning process.

Anthony said 10 applications for the job from Hawaii and the mainland were narrowed down to four by state Department of Defense human resources personnel, and those four candidates were reviewed by three individuals before they were all forwarded to state Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan for consideration.

Logan is director of HI-EMA.


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