Recent classified intelligence suggests North Korea is closer to reaching the islands than previously thought.
Although calling the threat still very low, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Executive Officer Toby Clairmont said recent classified intelligence suggests that North Korea is in a better position to deliver a nuclear attack on Hawaii than previously thought.
The state is unveiling a new education campaign to tell the public about what’s been happening behind the scenes during the last several months and to ramp up its response to a nuclear attack.
There has been behind-the-scenes preparation since 2009 when North Korea began launching satellites that dropped debris in the Pacific. The public didn’t need to know about the preparations until now.
“What’s changed is we’ve received some classified intel that we’re in the loop on that suggests that North Korea could do a better job than most people think,” Clairmont said.
Hawaii will begin a number of measures to educate and prepare the public, including bringing back the old air raid siren sound to serve in tandem with the current siren that warns of impending tsunami or hurricane.
The new siren will debut the first work day in November and will be preceded by radio and television scripts about what residents are about to hear and what to do.
Clairmont said a missile could reach Hawaii from North Korea in about 20 minutes. It would take U.S. Pacific Command about five minutes to discern the threat and notify the state. That would activate the siren and a series of other alerts, which would take three or four minutes, giving the public about 12 to 15 minutes to react.
In addition to the siren, mass notification via Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA), radio, television and cellphones will be deployed in 17 different languages. Because of the threat of tsunami and hurricanes, the infrastructure is in place.
The four counties have mass notification systems that residents can opt into like Nixle and Blackboard, but the state wants to notify everyone “where they stand,” Clairmont said.
“When someone gets off a plane, their cellphone will receive the WEA message and we’ve included the visitor industry in this initiative,” he said. “All hotels have info about hurricanes and tsunamis, and they will be adding this content. So no matter where you come from, the moment you turn on your cellphone, the service provider in Hawaii, there are several and all are tied to WEA, will transmit the message.”
The appropriate reaction to a possible nuclear attack is to shelter in place. If at home, get to the middle of the house or down to the basement. If outside, find the nearest, most substantial building, such as a parking structure or multi-structure concrete building and get near the center of it.
A month ago, the state revised its guidance on the personal survival kit. It now recommends having enough food and water for 14 days instead of seven. Since 99 percent of food products come through the harbor, a problem with the supply chain could take up to two weeks to fix. Also, 14 days is a “magic number” for most fallout, and would decay during that period.
The plan has been developing for several months, and the state is about to embark on a public education campaign. “One of the things the Governor (David Ige) feels strongly about is transparency,” Clairmont said. “We’ve done the work and it’s time to tell the public. We’re developing brochures, Web pages, PSAs, community outreach, talking to businesses and groups.”
Schools have already been preparing for hurricanes and other potential disasters, doing lockdowns and this threat will fold right into that preparedness.