Danny De Gracia: Hawaii Residents Need Training And Education To Prepare For Nuclear Attack - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

As Gov. David Ige leaves office, some critics will continue to jab at him for the 2018 North Korean missile alert false alarm in which he said he forgot his social media passwords and couldn’t tell locals in a timely manner that the warning was in error.

Opinion article badgeLaugh at our outgoing governor all you like, but the sheer panic and chaos among locals that happened during the 2018 false alarm says less about Ige and more about how, in our post-Cold War world, many people just wouldn’t know what to do in the event of a nuclear attack.

This is an issue that we need to be talking about and preparing for, especially since in recent weeks we have seen Russia making nuclear threats over Ukraine and North Korea once again testing ballistic missiles in the Pacific.

While nobody has suggested that Hawaii faces an imminent threat, these are unpredictable times that we are living in, and traditional international norms, as well as public expectations of normalcy that we have come to rely upon for decades, are no longer predictable.

The question you must ask yourself and your family is if you were, at a moment’s notice, given a warning that Hawaii was under nuclear attack, would you know where to go, or know what to do? Sadly, the end of the Cold War has made it so most people today know very little about survival tactics – after all, the last time Oahu faced an imminent threat was in 1968 when a nuclear-armed Soviet submarine sunk in nearby waters.

Getting a vague text message that says “seek shelter” isn’t very helpful, since people may not know what counts as a safe shelter, and those who are caught in the open may not know what to do if shelter isn’t anywhere nearby. (Pro Tip: Whatever you do, please don’t ever put your children down a sewer manhole, and don’t do a TikTok or Instagram live about it. That’s both stupid and narcissistically tacky.)

Electronic sign reads 'MISSILE ALERT IN ERROR THERE IS NO THREAT' on January 13, 2018
While the 2018 missile alert was a mistake, the threat remains. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

To be fair, Hawaii’s government and even the University of Hawaii have provided some guidance on what to do in the event of an attack, but the information is presented in a very obnoxious and inconvenient format that most wouldn’t understand.

I sincerely doubt that in the event of a nuclear attack locals will go online in search of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency attack matrix or nuclear guidance, so what is paramount is training people in advance of a crisis so they are already knowledgeable when and if an attack comes.

What We Need To Get Ready

A nuclear weapon’s immediate danger to humans comes in the form of heat, blast, radiation and fallout effects, some of which – timing and luck aside – can be potentially mitigated with advance preparation.

Ideally, Hawaii state and county governments need to start working on a public service announcement and education campaign to bring locals to at least a modicum of awareness of how to prepare and survive a potential nuclear strike on the islands.

The first thing we need to do is identify and map for the general public every single potential hardened structure that could provide some level of blast protection and shelter from fallout. That data should then be put in an app or published in a brochure for people to know and memorize what is closest to their homes and worksites.

A few buildings around downtown Honolulu still have old yellow and black trefoil “Fallout Shelter” signs indicating them as potential hiding places in event of attack, but how many people know where these buildings are?

The second thing that people need is some kind of television, radio, and digital/social media campaign that regularly shares short survival tips on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack, similar to the way we do hurricane preparedness messages.

I’m not suggesting that we start digging bunkers in our backyards or hoard potassium iodide tablets, but people could benefit from knowing a few helpful things. Example: How much cover is needed to protect from a nuclear flash? Where is the safest place to be in a house if a blast is about to occur? How do you distinguish the difference between a stress response and radiation sickness? These are all things we’d better start learning, and fast.

There is also, for the Hawaii government, a need for training and preparing for continuity of government in the event of an attack. Our state and county governments need to drill for nuclear emergencies, and perhaps even the next Legislature should consider purchasing a Boeing 737 or similar small- to medium-sized aircraft that can be used by local authorities as an “airborne command post” to safely orbit the islands while directing rescue or recovery operations.

We need to think ahead and not wait for a disaster to get our act together. We are living in worrisome times, but effective preparation is the antidote for fear and chaos.


Read this next:

Chad Blair: It’s Easy To Vote In Hawaii, So Why Isn’t Turnout Higher?


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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.


Latest Comments (0)

How about having a president who will pick up the phone, call Putin, and tell him that if he sets off nukes in an unprovoked attack, that both he and Russia will be obliterated.

WildJim · 1 month ago

Better idea: Hawaii should teach the world Aloha so we don't need nuclear weapons. This may sound trite but it's at least as effective as "preparation" for an island state that will be completely cut off in the event of an attack.

six · 1 month ago

This opinion is a sensationalist take on nuclear threats that borders on fear mongering. For example, the author refers to Russia's recent nuclear threats as a rationale for more preparation as if the threats were credible. Additionally, the framing suggests that Hawaii could be a target of those threats, which contradicts basically every informed opinion on the issue. The author cites North Korea's nuclear tests as further reason to prepare. But again, there is little to no evidence that North Korea intends to launch a nuclear strike against anyone, much less against Hawaii. And finally, it is ridiculous to claim that the problem with the 2018 false missile alert was that people didn't know how to prepare. People panicked because they have been falsely led to believe that a missile strike is a reasonable possibility. This article only further contributes to the problem by inflating the risk of a nuclear strike.Further preparations of the kind discussed in the article will simply exacerbate these problems and generate more unwarranted fear.

AnAlpacaInHawaii · 1 month ago

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