Maui Business

Hawai‘i Plan Prepped for N Korea Missile Threat

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Officials with the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency will announce plans for a public information and education campaign related to the ballistic missile threat from North Korea.

Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency building at Leahi (Diamond Head). Courtesy photo.

Agency officials say that although the threat of a ballistic missile threat from North Korea is currently assessed to be low, the HI-EMA has been working on preparedness and consequence management plans since December 2016.

“We do not want to cause any undue stress for the public; however, we have a responsibility to plan for all hazards,” said Vern Miyagi, HI-EMA Administrator.

“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 to ensure that Hawaiʻi residents will know what to do if such an event occurs”, said Miyagi.

Agency officials note that during the Cold War (1950’s-1980’s), multiple civil defense agencies across the nation, including Hawaiʻi, would routinely update plans and conduct drills related to nuclear attack scenarios.


HI-EMA staff say they have reviewed those plans and are preparing updates based on the best available science and case studies.

Miyagi, along with Toby Clairmont, Executive Officer for the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency will announce the public information and education campaign tomorrow related to the potential North Korean ICBM threat.  The plan includes instructions for Hawaiʻi residents and tourists on what to do if a ballistic missile attack is detected.

Maui Now contacted the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority today for input on the state’s efforts, and to see if there are any preparations being taken to protect the tourism population through education or otherwise.

“Everyone’s safety in Hawaiʻi is always our top priority. We support the efforts of the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency to prepare for any threat to Hawaiʻi’s well-being, be it man-made or a natural disaster,” said Charlene Chan, Director of Communications, Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority.


Chan continued saying, “We know the threat of a missile attack by North Korea against Hawaiʻi is a very remote possibility at this time. However, we also know from speaking to our tourism industry partners that if reports are misinterpreted about the State’s need to prepare for an attack, this could lead to travelers and groups staying away from Hawaiʻi. The effect of such a downturn would ultimately be felt by residents who rely on tourism’s success for their livelihood.”

In April of this year, officials with the State Emergency Management Agency said the threat of North Korea actually firing a nuclear missile at Hawaiʻi is extremely small; but “yet with the unpredictable leadership of North Korea, Hawaiʻi needs to take steps to prepare just in case.”

Military experts estimate a missile from North Korea would take between 12-20 minutes to reach Hawaiʻi.

NBC News compiled an article around the same time, providing the public with a guideline on what to do in the case of a nuclear attack to escape radioactive fallout.  The publication states that “sheltering in place, beneath as many layers of protection as possible, is the best way to avoid the radiation that would follow a nuclear detonation.”


The federal government’s website also has a list of guidelines on what to do before, during and after a nuclear blast, providing simple steps to protect life.

Representative Matthew S. LoPresti, Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Public Safety, issued a statement today saying he supports the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency rolling out a disaster preparedness plan and public information campaign to address the unlikely scenario of a North Korean nuclear attack.

He said the effort shows that the State is serious about protecting its civilians even in such an unlikely event.

“Disasters in any form are rare, happen with little warning, and give rise to damaging and unexpected scenarios.  A missile attack by North Korea would indeed be amongst the most unlikely disaster scenarios for Hawaiʻi. Nevertheless, it is the burden of state government to be prepared,” said Rep. Matthew S. LoPresti.

“As a legislator and Vice-Chair of the Public Safety Committee, I am pleased that the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency took the concerns of the House seriously and is following through on their promises during this legislative session to update emergency plans and educate the public. This news should not alarm anyone and rather should give comfort to residents and visitors alike that the state is looking out for their well-being,” said LoPresti.



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