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Testing, Testing, Can You Hear the New Emergency Attack Siren in Your Area?

State agency says fewer complaints for first monthly test of 2018.


This Kaka‘ako siren sounded loud and clear at 11:45 a.m. on Jan. 2, the first workday of the month for many after the holidays. 
Video: David Croxford


This year’s first test of the two-part system of emergency alert warning tones seems to have gone smoother than last month’s statewide revival of the old air-raid wailing tone last heard during the 1980s.


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


In light of the increased threat of nuclear attack from North Korea, the state added the wailing tone to the monthly alert system test Dec. 1, but that test drew numerous complaints that the sirens couldn’t be heard in many neighborhoods or was too quiet.


The Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency reported fewer initial complaints yesterday but the more detailed analysis of data from across the state will take about two more weeks.


“As far as we can tell, it went smoother than last month,” says agency spokeswoman Arlina Agbayani. The Dec. 1 test drew nationwide attention in bringing back the attack warning tone that hadn’t been used since the end of the Cold War.


The test now comes in two parts at 11:45 a.m. on the first working day of each month. First, a  steady attention alert tone for one minute, then a pause of 10 to 15 seconds, then one minute of the attack warning wailing tone, which was the old air-raid warning.


Emergency attack siren test

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


Last month, the state agency reported 386 complaints of about the sirens sounds statewide, with 171 of them scattered across O‘ahu.


That first detailed report indicated a mix of issues from broken speakers, water damage, electrical issues and blocked solar panels from Wahiawā and Lā‘ie to Kualoa and Honolulu, Kailua, Kunia, Nu‘uanu Valley and Kamiloiki.


A number of complaints came last month from visitors in Waikīkī. But Agbayani says fewer people called to report issues. In Kaka‘ako, the siren went off without a hitch with people in the area pausing briefly before returning to their routines on the first workday back for many.


The attention alert signal is intended to tell people to turn on a radio or television for information and instruction about an impending emergency, or in a coastal area, to evacuate to higher ground. The attack warning signal tells residents to seek immediate shelter and remain sheltered in place until an all-clear message is broadcast over radio or television.


State officials emphasize that the outdoor sirens are one part of a three-component emergency notification system. An alert is also broadcast over radio and TV, in cooperation with Hawai‘i’s broadcast industry. In the event of a real emergency, warning sirens and emergency alert broadcasts would be joined by alerts via the wireless emergency alert system, which sends sound-and-text warnings to mobile telephones and other compatible devices.




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Honolulu Magazine November 2018
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