HI-EMA Briefs Consular Corps of Hawaii and Filipino Community Members on Nuclear Threat
By Carolyn Weygan-Hildebrand
“It is extremely unlikely but it is the elephant in the room that we need to talk about,” Vern Miyagi offered during his presentation before members of the Consul Corps of Hawaii and interested public. Miyagi was referring to the prospect of an attack from North Korea and for the probability of a nuclear disaster. The presentation took place last October 10 at the Philippine Consulate General grounds on Pali Highway. This particular presentation is part of the initiative of Gina Jamoralin as current dean of the Consular Corps of Hawaii. Jeffrey Lau, Honorary Consul for the Kingdom of Belgium, provided the opening remarks.
Miyagi is a retired Army two-star general and at present, he is the Administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA). As explained in its website website, HI-EMA is part of the State’s Department of Civil Defense and it has the job of preparing the State for many disasters and hazards. For example, the State has long-standing disaster preparedness plans for hurricanes, tsunami, flash flooding, lava flows, cyber-terrorism, and mass casualty emerging from infectious diseases.
Hawaii’s need to talk about nuclear disaster arose amidst US intelligence acknowledgement that North Korea has progressed in testing stronger devices in the last seven months. North Korea has been asserting that it has become a full-fledge nuclear power and has developed the means to deliver nuclear devices, like atomic and hydrogen bombs, at any range including as far away as the United States continent.
The State Department of Civil Defense do not want residents and tourists to panic over a nuclear attack threat. Miyagi wanted the audience to be realistic in preparing for this very remote possibility.
The improbability of an actual nuclear attack is premised on the logic that North Korea will be committing regime suicide in doing so. That is, the international community will act swiftly against such decision. The improbability of a successful attack is premised further on the expectation that several ballistic missile defense systems of the United States and allies will intercept any nuclear weapon-carrying missile that is headed to Hawaii.
Nevertheless, HI-EMA appealed to the audience to encourage others to look for upcoming announcements on how to prepare for a nuclear attack. For example, HI-EMA will be differentiating between the generic civil defense siren sound and one that warns about a nuclear attack.
In a successful attack scenario, Miyagi said that Hawaii has only twenty minutes to respond. That is, there will be little time to react between missile detection by the country’s defense system and an actual nuclear landing and explosion in any part of Hawaii. In the HI-EMA’s diagram of response, the US Pacific Command has five minutes to alert others about the launch. After getting the alert, the State Civil Defense system has five minutes to implement its warning and response system. Finally, individuals have ten minutes to respond to a nuclear attack siren. HI-EMA wants individuals to respond along a set of guidelines that can be summed up along the slogan, “GET inside, STAY inside, STAY tuned.”
As the guidelines suggest, each one is encouraged to “get inside” or take cover immediately upon hearing the nuclear threat siren. Each member of a household should know where to take shelter immediately wherever they find themselves in. There will be no time to drive around to pick up family members from their schools, workplaces, daycare centers or other places. Individual plans should be aligned with disaster preparedness plans of their families or households, workplaces, children’s schools or elderly parents’ daycare centers, and other frequently visited places.
Miyagi admitted that Hawaii no longer has fallout shelters for nuclear attacks like it use to have. He also recognized that most buildings here do not have basements and the single wall-type houses of Hawaii do not offer much protection. HI-EMA encourages everyone to know their neighbors and discuss which houses and community buildings have sections (e.g. basements) that could be the best shelters. Miyagi assured the October 10 audience that the State is sending the message to schools, tourist areas, and other gathering places about nuclear attack preparedness.
According to Miyagi, the basic difference between his presentation at the Consulate and his previous ones is the former’s update on the force of an attack. Based on North Korea’s latest missile testing, HI-EMA’s disaster preparation plan now postulates a nuclear device that can yield 140 kilotons TNT equivalent. For comparison, the World War 2 era bombs that the United States dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were about 15 and 20 kiloton devices, respectively.
The anticipated strength of North Korea’s strongest device is projected to destroy anything within a six-mile radius. The nuclear explosions in Nagasaki and Hiroshima destroyed everything within a one-mile radius from the center of explosion except for reinforced concrete frames. Survivors experienced blinding bright light, deafening sounds, shocks, injuries from crumbling structures and falling debris, burns from extreme heat, and radiation. Most survivors happened to be situated in inside buildings and away from windows when the nuclear explosions occurred.
The action to “stay inside” is meant to ensure survival in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear explosion, including protection from radioactive fallout. HIEMA’s brochure entitled “2 Weeks Ready” calls on residents to have at least fourteen days worth of survival needs food, water, medication, and others. It also recommends kits for work, for every family member, and pets.
The final action of “staying tuned” is meant to ensure communication in an explosion aftermath. It is expected that regular communication services, like cell and internet, will be disrupted for a while. Residents and tourists have to be prepared to get information from AM-FM broadcast radio, small portable walkie-talkies, and word-of-mouth.
Consul Roberto Bernardo, who gave the event’s welcome remarks, said that the Philippine Consulate will help share the information through outreach activities. Hawaii Filipino Chronicle readers are also encouraged to visit the HI-EMA website for latest development and information. See http://dod.hawaii.gov/hiema/