USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, as seen on Dec. 27, 2016. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
The state of Hawaii is formulating a preparedness plan for a North Korean missile attack, much to the dismay of the state’s tourism boosters.
“We do not want to cause any undue stress for the public,” Vern T. Miyagi, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency administrator said in a statement reported Thursday by the state’s news media, but “we cannot wait to begin our public information campaign to ensure that Hawaii residents will know what do if such an event occurs.”
The full plan for that campaign will be unveiled Friday, according to Hawaii News Now.
The preparation, while reportedly not involving the sort of duck and cover drills of the early Cold War era across the United States where school children hid under their desks, will include evacuation drills for school students and public service announcements that say “get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned,” the Honolulu Star Advertiser said, quoting officials.
Hawaii News Now reported that the campaign will also feature tests of a new emergency siren on the first workday of each month. “The normal siren will sound, followed by a second siren that would be used in the event of an attack,” the news site said.
Hawaii, while famously laid back about most things, remembers Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval fleet in Honolulu in 1941.
Since then, however, the state has concentrated on preparedness mostly for typhoons, Tsunamis, high waves and mosquitoes bearing disease, not missile attacks.
That seems to have changed with news of North Korea’s development of an ICBM that could reach that state and Alaska. After the test earlier this summer of the Hwasong-14 missile U.S. intelligence officials now believe North Korea capable of launching a missile 4,000 miles. “That range would not be enough to reach the Lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii, but would allow it to reach all of Alaska,” David Wright, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists told The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick earlier this month.
Large islands or small, those responsible for the safety of the 1.4 million residents of Hawaiian Islands, which stretch some 1500 miles in the Pacific are taking no chances. The islands of Nihau and Kauai are the farthest east, and are roughly 4400 miles from the Korean Peninsula. Hawaii is home to numerous important military facilities, including the Pentagon’s Pacific Command,
Hawaii’s House of Representatives was concerned enough to approve a resolution in April, citing North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, calling for updating fallout shelters and backup container shipping ports, noting that Hawaii’s economy and people are dependent on ships for food and other supplies.
Hawaii’s Tourism Authority is not thrilled with all the talk coming from officials.
“Everyone’s safety in Hawaii is always our top priority,” Charlene Chan, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in a statement reported by the Star Advertiser. “However, we also know from speaking to our tourism industry partners that if reports are misinterpreted about the state’s need to prepare for an attack, this could lead to travelers and groups staying away from Hawaii. The effect of such a downturn would ultimately be felt by residents who rely on tourism’s success for their livelihood.”
Besides, she said, the threat from North Korea “is a very remote possibility at this time.”
Miyagi, a retired Army general, agreed. He said in April that an attack is “a low probability. … But then, so, we have to keep a lookout for that. That’s why we’re talking about updating the plan. It’s an awakening.
“Know where to go, know what to do, and know when to do it,” he said.
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