At 8:07 a.m. on Jan. 13, 2018 Hawaii was woken up to face a reality that we have been dreading: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Even though it was a false alarm, this was the day that we received our wake-up call—none of us are prepared.
After the incident, there was an overwhelming outburst of anger: anger towards Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) administrator, Vern Miyagi, anger towards the 10-year veteran employee that clicked the button and anger towards the Ige administration for delayed response times and updates. Everyone, from the public to journalists and the legislature, sought someone they could direct their amassing anger towards. But while this anger is understandable, it is not acceptable.
Grilling an apologetic, guilt-ridden Miyagi during a press conference and demanding to know who sent out the false alarm does not save lives. Threatening the life of an experienced employee whose mistake was already being judged on a national scale does not change anything.
With increasing tension between the U.S. and North Korea, we’ve had concerns about an attack for over a year now. Both the media and the state government have known the public’s fears and concerns. If there is any truly justified anger, it should be towards the state government.
Why haven’t there been stronger policies and guidelines put in place prior to the false alert? Why haven’t our journalists voiced our concerns and pushed leadership to prepare us better before this so called failure of HI-EMA?
This false alarm has raised countless questions that shouldn’t have been questions in the first place. What are we really supposed to do in an actual missile attack? Telling families to have a 14 day supply of food and water does not prepare us for when we’re at the beach, shopping, at a soccer game, driving on the freeway or practically anywhere outside. Are we supposed to pull out manhole covers and take shelter in the sewers? Are store employees justified to deny us shelter? Should we swim or paddle further out to sea if we are at the beach? And what about tourists? What are they supposed to do?
There is nothing put in place to answer any of this and we are certainly not on the same page concerning these real life scenarios. The DOE sent a memo concerning what teachers and students should do if it were a school day, after Jan. 13.
The state needs to compile a comprehensive guide of safety precautions and procedures for the public and work with various private sectors. All of the voiced concerns need to be clearly addressed. Relying on common sense and the aloha spirit is not enough when people are in a panic. Government officials should frequently post on social media about safety precautions so all ages are informed. And our media needs to push for these changes. This is what calms fear, saves lives and makes a difference.
We must look at the silver lining in this situation. We have been given a chance to see our shortcomings. We must take this opportunity to better prepare ourselves for the future. We have been told that a false alert will never happen again, that means the next time—if there is one—it won’t be a test, so let’s be ready.