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Hawai‘i Begins Testing Nuclear Sirens for the First Time Since the Cold War

The state’s emergency warning alert system will sound two warning tones today and on the first working day of every month in response to the North Korea missile threat.



On Friday, Dec. 1, and the first working day of every month, Hawai‘i government and military leaders will test an attack warning signal—a wailing tone—intended to warn residents and visitors of an impending nuclear missile strike. That’s in addition to the monthly test of the outdoor warning siren, which is sounded for a variety of natural disasters, including tsunami and hurricane threats.


The heightened alert from the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency comes in response to increased threat of nuclear attack coming from the government of North Korea. State officials explained the new warning at a news conference on Nov. 27, urging people to prepare, not panic.


Gov. David Ige said even though such an attack is unlikely, it’s important that people be aware. “We believe that it is imperative that we be prepared for every disaster and in today’s world, that includes a nuclear attack,” Ige said.


Hawai‘i Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan told reporters that keeping people informed is a balancing act: “We have to be able to do this scientifically, informationwise, and then do this, to not scare the public but keep them aware of what’s going on.”


What to expect at 11:45 a.m. Friday, Dec. 1 and the first working day of each month:


  • Steady, attention alert tone for 50 seconds.

  • 10- to 15-second pause

  • Attack warning alert wailing tone (old air-raid tone) for 50 seconds

  • People near Campbell Industrial Park will hear an additional 50 seconds of HAZMAT tone.


Vern Miyagi, administrator of the Emergency Management Agency, appears in public service announcements with a matter-of-fact delivery backed with Hawaiian music. He said recent missile launches from North Korea underscore the reality of the threat: “It’s not stopping; it’s in our face; it’s the elephant in the room.”



Miyagi emphasized that this is a test of the warning, not an evacuation. If the tone sounds outside of the test, the official advice is: “get inside, stay inside and stay tuned,” he said, because it might take as little as 12 to 13 minutes from the time of alert until the threat arrives. So, he urged people to make a plan for where they would shelter if they are at home, at work or on the road for themselves and their families.


“Chances are so, so, so slim that this will ever occur,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, but planning helps. “I think, in some ways, we’re the most prepared people in the United States, because I don’t know how many places around the country test their sirens every month.”


The head of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, George Szigeti, sent out a statement intended to reassure visitors about the warning tones.  He said the new test comes in response to North Korea’s test launches and threats to use an intercontinental ballistic missile against the U.S.


“It is imperative to remember that the threat of a missile attack against Hawai‘i by North Korea is a highly unlikely possibility, according to the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency,” Szigeti said. “Travelers can plan and book their trips to the Hawaiian Islands confident that they will be safe and secure throughout their stay.”


For more information, go to ready.hawaii.gov




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Honolulu Magazine October 2018
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