Clearly, nuclear attack is the worst possible thing that can happen to anyone, anywhere. And if, when and wherever a missile strikes, the impact will be felt around the world.

Yet last Saturday morning notwithstanding, we in Hawaii will much more likely experience what we’ve been seeing in California, Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico: natural disasters of increased scope and frequency due to climate change.

And though we all fill up on water and grab flashlights during hurricane warnings on a regular basis, let’s face it: Most of us are woefully unprepared for a catastrophe.

A screen shot from MauiWatch about the false missile alert, Jan. 16. Like many in the state, Maui residents were confused about what was true and what was false.

Following the immediate shock and the subsequent relief of knowing that the missile alarm was a mistake, we should be looking very seriously at what we learned from believing the worst this weekend — as individuals, as neighbors and members of communities, and from a statewide infrastructural perspective — in our isolated islands.

For example:

When there’s a major disaster and people are looking for information, everyone goes to the same Internet sites, which then bog down. What are the best sites for getting accurate information quickly? Is there a site or app that aggregates different sources and types of information in one convenient place that will not crash?

People don’t know what to believe. I saw Facebook comments and tweets about the Maui Police Department and Maui 24/7 saying the warning was a mistake within a pretty short time, which were comforting, but I didn’t feel confident that the sources were 100 percent accurate. We need all our official channels communicating quickly and effectively, and we need to know which sources are credible in this context.

Most of us are woefully unprepared for a serious catastrophe.

Whether trying to survive fallout or a major natural disaster, who would we be hearing from regarding safety of water, access to food, congestion on roads? Whose kuleana is this and how will they keep us informed?

Are there viable options for addressing exposure to nuclear fallout and radiation poisoning? Shouldn’t we be hearing from our emergency management personnel now on the efficacy and reliability of iodine and other “radiation pills”? Perhaps some will decide that if the unthinkable happens, they’d rather not live through it. But if we want to try to survive a nuclear attack, what will the state have in place to address the reality of radiation exposure?

And whether we’re talking severe natural disaster or nuclear attack, what medical facilities are likely to be open or available? If someone on Maui gets cut by broken windows (a likely cause of injury aside from the impacts from the blast and radiation), how do we know if anyone is at Maui Memorial Hospital? If we face a natural disaster that devastates major parts of the island, how will we be informed about where we are supposed to bring the injured?

I learned Sunday that my neighbor doesn’t get phone alerts because she got tired of receiving flash flood warnings so she was blissfully unaware of the “attack.” I know from Facebook that another neighbor was completely freaking out.

Had this missile been real, we had no plan for helping our neighbors.

Had this missile been real, we had no plan for helping our neighbors. And once we’ve “sheltered in place,” we’re stuck.

Is there something our whole street could be doing together to make us all safer? Maybe we should be having “block parties” where we figure out if someone’s home is the best shelter; decide if there are different priorities for people with small children/babies; and take into consideration families who have kupuna or people with special needs.

Surreal, Yet Reality

I know this discussion sounds surreal and maybe even bordering on absurd, but this was the horror that so many people in Hawaii believed was a reality Saturday.

Maybe if we start truly envisioning the severe impacts of climate change and the possibility of nuclear war, we might have a chance of getting through these alarming, human-created disasters alive and together.

Maui Memorial Medical Center . Emergency room area. 3 aug 2016.

What medical facilities would be open after a nuclear attack, such as Maui Memorial Medical Center?

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

More importantly, perhaps the act of staring these realities in the face, head-on and together might compel us to engage in a broad, grass-roots movement that forces our state, our nation and our leaders to step away from the abyss of nuclear war and climate change.

There is a significant possibility that cataclysmic events will strike Hawaii in the not-too-distant future. The upside of Saturday could be that we actually seriously plan – and communicate that plan to everyone in Hawaii – how we as individuals and a community will respond together so that we know in advance what survival can look like and how we will take care of each other and rebuild our communities.

All of us need to be prepared for impacts almost too dire to contemplate and be ready to respond as neighbors and friends because that’s what marks us as human and alive.

What also marks us as human and alive is the capacity to change. Hopefully, Saturday will have shown us that the time for that change is now.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.com.

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