The VICE Guide to Right Now

Hawaii Is Getting Ready for a Possible North Korean Nuclear Attack

The state is set to roll out a plan for how it would respond, now that the Hermit Kingdom has developed a missile capable of traveling 4,000 miles.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, United States
July 21, 2017, 3:44pm

In early July, North Korea successfully tested a missile equipped to fly at least 4,000 miles from its coastline, raising alarms for territories within the weapon's reach. Experts estimate it could travel as far as Alaska and potentially even Hawaii—prompting state officials to draft a plan on how to respond if all hell descends on the islands, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports.

If North Korea launched its Hwasong-14, the intercontinental ballistic missile could reach the state in an estimated 20 minutes. That gives the public roughly 12 to 15 minutes to take cover, state officials told the Advertiser. Hawaii's preparedness plan—including an educational campaign and alarm system—stresses what residents should do during that critical window.

Should a 15-kiloton nuke be minutes from detonating above Honolulu, a unique siren would sound, warning the public of the bomb's imminent arrival, Hawaii News Now reports. In what sounds like a throwback to the 1950s, residents would then hear public service announcements advising them to "get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned."

"We do not want to cause any undue stress for the public," Hawaii Emergency Management Agency administrator Vern Miyagi told the Advertiser. "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. Therefore, we cannot wait to begin our public information campaign."

Hawaii will test the emergency siren on the first day of each month, blaring a standard alarm used in the event of emergencies like hurricanes, before escalating to its nuclear one, News Now reports. Students will also stage mock-evacuations at school, as they do to prepare for possible school shootings.

According to Charlene Chan, director of communications for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the threat of an actual attack in Hawaii "is a very remote possibility at this time," the Advertiser reports. Still, the state's vital tourism industry isn't exactly psyched about how the preparations might freak out potential visitors.

"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," Chan said. "The effect of such a downturn would ultimately be felt by residents who rely on tourism's success for their livelihood."

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.