So what is the probability of a North Korean missile striking Hawaii? According to Vern Miyagi, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), which is part of the state’s Department of Defense, the chances North Korea will act are unlikely, but making sure Hawaii is prepared is still vital.
“If North Korea launches against us or our allies, the retaliation would be complete and they would defeat North Korea’s ambition to continue its regime. The regime would probably end,” explained Miyagi. He notes Hawaii is protected under the U.S. Pacific Command’s defensive umbrella, the anti-ballistic missile system, and it is home to the Pacific Command, the military’s headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region.
But, Miyagi points out, “Hawaii is a likely target because we’re closer to North Korea than most of the continental United States… As we track the news and see tests, both missile launches and nuclear tests, it’s the elephant in the room. We can’t ignore it. People of Hawaii need to know what Hawaii is doing in preparation for this.”
Because of the North Korean threat, the Aloha State is currently ramping up efforts to educate its 1.4 million residents, as well as its visitors, on how to prepare for a nuclear attack.
Hawaii has become one of the first states in the nation to initiate a nuclear preparedness campaign, and starting Dec. 1, it will reinstate the “attack warning” siren, which it hasn’t tested since the Cold War. The siren will follow the monthly “attention alert” signal, which warns people of an incoming tsunami or hurricane.
The state has also been holding community meetings and broadcasting public service announcements on TV and the radio to prepare people for a possible attack.
Most importantly, officials are encouraging people to have a plan. Gone are the days of “duck and cover” during the Cold War; today, the mantra is “shelter in place,” preferably in a concrete structure. Officials also recommend having enough food and water to survive for 48 hours, and being prepared with supplies to last up to 14 days.
If North Korea launches a missile, officials estimate it could take about 20 minutes to reach Hawaii. It would take about five minutes for the U.S. to determine where it’s going, which would leave about 12 to 15 minutes to warn the public.
“Each individual, each family should have a plan to be resilient, so they can take care of themselves, while we focus on getting the critical infrastructure, the harbors, the water, the roads, all back to some sort of normalcy,” said Miyagi, who’s also a retired U.S. Army Major General and has extensive experience in domestic and international humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
Based on a nuclear threat now, officials predict 80 to 90 percent of the population could survive.
“I would be remiss in not doing my responsibility, or our responsibility at Emergency Management to not consider this, and list this as one of the hazards and prepare for it. That’s our job here, to prepare for hazards. If we save one life, it’s worth it,” Miyagi said. “If we save lives, that’s the whole purpose of our existence, and we’re very passionate about what we do.”