By Paul LeBlanc
HAWAII — Hawaii is set to become the first state in the US to test an “attack- warning” system in the event of a North Korean nuclear missile strike.
Starting in November, Hawaii’s disaster warning plan will include a new protocol in case of a nuclear attack, CNN affiliate KNHL reports. But some are concerned the announcement will scare off tourists from visiting the island.
A “guidance summary” from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency says residents will be alerted of nuclear detonation through siren alarms and flashing white lights. An Emergency Alert System will broadcast over television and radio frequencies as well.
There are 4,661 miles of ocean between Hawaii and North Korea, making the island one of the closest US territories to Kim Jong Un’s regime after Guam and Alaska.
Despite plans for testing a nuclear warning system, there is no need to panic, Vern Miyagi, an administrator with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, told the affiliate.
“When I see stuff like, ‘Hawaii prepares for nuclear attack,’ that’s way overboard. We’re not preparing for a nuclear attack,” he said. “This is just a hazard, like tsunamis and hurricanes that Hawaii faces. It’s not impending.”
Miyagi added the threat of a nuclear strike is “not mature.”
‘Odds are so small right now’
Despite the alert system’s label as “just a hazard,” some are wondering why it was announced at the height of Hawaii’s tourist season.
“The odds are so small right now and the possibility of this happening is so remote,” Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa told the affiliate. “It’s not worth getting everybody into a major economic situation to plan for a major attack.”
Hawaii is a critical outpost for the US military, hosting naval and air force bases. US Pacific Command, the military’s headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region, is on the island of Oahu.
While Hawaii is the first state in the US to prepare for a North Korean attack, it’s not alone on the world stage. Japan implemented a similar alert system after four North Korean missiles landed off its northwest coast in March, one landing just over 100 miles from the city of Oga.
Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association president Mufi Hanneman told the affiliate that the system should only make tourists more comfortable traveling to the island.
“We certainly have marketed ourselves as one of the safest places to visit if not in America, in the world,” he said. “If I were a visitor, I’d be pleased to know that Hawaii is taking steps and that I can continue to go there and feel safe.”
In case of an actual nuclear strike, residents are instructed to go inside and remain sheltered for 14 days or until they are told it is safe to leave. While in shelter, residents should listen to local AM-FM radio stations for official information.
But despite the possibility of a decline in tourism, Miyagi says it’s still worth testing the new system, even if an attack isn’t imminent.
“Probability is low,” he said. “But we just want to get ahead of it.”