Mayor Harry Kim says the state needs to reassess everything about its missile warning program, not just what led to last week’s false alarm that caused panic across Hawaii.
“My recommendation is we must review the entire system,” he said, including air-raid warning tests and public education efforts. “The problem is not just the error that was on Saturday.”
He said he wants to see a more detailed plan of what happens after an attack.
“We can’t just leave it vague,” said Kim, who served as Hawaii County Civil Defense chief for 24 years. He said the county’s plan has to be based on the state’s plan to create consistency.
The all-caps alert, which told residents there was an incoming missile and was not a drill, was sent to cellphones at 8:07 a.m. Saturday when a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee pressed the wrong button during a shift change. Automatic warnings also were issued on radio and television stations. It took 38 minutes for a correction message to be sent to residents’ and visitors’ phones.
Correction alerts were sent out sooner via social media or through radio by county Civil Defense.
The internal tests that caused the error have been suspended.
Kim said he asked the state to not go ahead with implementing the missile warning system, in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, because he didn’t think it was ready.
In the meantime, county Civil Defense isn’t planning to expand its public information efforts, though meetings are still being scheduled with community associations or other groups by request, said Administrator Talmadge Magno.
Larger public meetings to discuss preparation aren’t being planned.
Just last week, a county Civil Defense employee went on Na Leo TV to talk about preparedness for a nuclear attack. Magno said he is encouraging people to watch the video, which can be seen at https://tinyurl.com/y9wlrnqt.
If Oahu is hit, fallout, which can be tracked, can still reach this island. He said residents might have to stay indoors for at two days or more as that dissipates. Civil Defense officials recommend having supplies for two weeks for any disaster.
Meanwhile, county Civil Defense officials and a spokesperson for HEMA will update the County Council on Tuesday about the false alarm and steps being taken to address it. That will occur during a 9 a.m. Public Safety and Mass Transit Committee meeting at the West Hawaii Civic Center.
Valerie Poindexter, County Council chairwoman, said she’d like to know what the county can do to get the word out faster if there is another false alert.
Kim said the county initially was told at 8:10 or 8:11 a.m. there was no missile, which it received official confirmation of at 8:15 a.m. Kim said the county began informing police and fire departments right away. The county then released a radio message of Kim informing the public of the false alarm. The Tribune-Herald received that at 8:24 a.m.
Poindexter said she is wondering if the Nixle alert system, used by police to issue cellphone alerts, also could have been used to inform the public.
She said she’d also like to see public meetings to better inform people on what they should do when they get a real alert.
“There’s a lot of things to talk about,” Poindexter said.
HEMA has a nuclear threat page at http://dod.hawaii.gov/hiema/category/nuclear-threat.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.