Despite the criticisms of the state’s tourism industry, Hawaiian officials announced the launch of an education and preparedness campaign aimed at informing their citizens on what to do in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack.

Tensions have been high in the Pacific for months now, as North Korea continues to test various ballistic missile platforms ultimately intended as delivery systems for compact nuclear warheads that some believe the nation already possesses.  North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong un, has repeatedly issued threats of initiating preemptive strikes on U.S. installations within his reach, and with the test of North Korea’s latest long-range missile demonstrating a capacity to reach at least as far as Alaska, Hawaii has decided the threat has become too great to ignore.

“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 released on Thursday, “but we cannot wait to begin our public information campaign to ensure that Hawaii residents will know what do if such an event occurs.”

While the full details of the new campaign have yet to be released, insiders claim it will not include the type of “duck and cover” drills once commonplace throughout the United States during the Cold War, when America was concerned about the possibility of Soviet ICBM strikes.  Instead of teaching children to hide beneath their desks, the program will include evacuation drills, as well as education aimed at teaching children and adults when it’s best to “get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned.”

“We don’t know the exact capabilities or intentions of the North Korean government, but there is clear evidence that it is trying to develop ballistic missiles that could conceivably one day reach our state,” Miyagi said.

The campaign is also expected to include the unveiling of a new siren, which will be tested on the first workday of each month moving forward.  A normal siren will sound first, indicating that a test is being conducted, followed by the new siren that is intended to indicate an incoming attack.

Although known as a relaxing getaway location for vacationers, Hawaii is not new to the idea of preparing for emergencies, nor to surprise attacks.  In 1941, the Japanese attacked the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, ushering the United States into World War II, and changing the way Hawaiians would perceive the potential for foreign military action forever.  Since then, concerns about typhoons, tsunamis, and even disease bearing mosquitos have helped the state government develop a robust strategy regarding emergency situations on the islands.

In April, Hawaii’s House of Representatives approved a new resolution that called for updates to fallout shelters and the creation of backup container shipping ports, as Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents and countless tourists rely on shipped goods for food and supplies.  The resolution cited the North Korean threat by name.

Of course, not everyone in Hawaii is keen on advertising the state’s vulnerability to a nuclear attack.  Much of the island’s economy is dependent on tourism, and many fear this campaign will frighten vacationers away.

“Everyone’s safety in Hawaii is always our top priority,” said Charlene Chan, a spokeswoman for Hawaii’s Tourism Authority, “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.”

She went on to explain that the threat from North Korea “is a very remote possibility at this time.”

Miyagi, a retired U.S. Army General, did agree that the chances of an attack currently remain remote, but that doesn’t dissuade him from wanting to ensure the people on the island know what to do if such an attack ever does occur.  In his mind, this campaign should serve as an “awakening” for the island’s residents.

“Know where to go, know what to do, and know when to do it,” he said.


Image courtesy of the Department of Defense