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North Korean Nuclear Attack: 20 Minutes From Launch to Detonation

Wayne Yoshioka

The State Emergency Management Agency provided a briefing on what residents and visitors should do in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack targeting Honolulu and Pearl Harbor. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

The estimated time available from a North Korean missile launch to impact in Hawai’i is 20 minutes.  Hawai’i Emergency Management Agency administrator Vern Miyagi says an attack on Hawai’i is unlikely but it cannot be ignored.

“What we’ve picked as a planning scenario for us is a one-hundred kiloton weapon.  This is similar to the Hiroshima one.”

When the missile launches, U-S Pacific Command at Camp Smith will make the detection, activate their Anti Ballistic Missile System and alert the state.  Sirens and emergency alert systems will notify residents and visitors, who are directed to get indoors, stay indoors and stay tuned.  Captain Sean Cripps is a nuclear science officer.

“What we can expect from the blast itself, is there’ll be an area approximately one to one-and-a-half mile radius that’s highly impacted.  The initial detonation may be in the neighborhood of approximately 15-thousand casualties.  For a fallout scenario it may be on the order of 40-thousand to a hundred thousand.”

If you’re in your car, don’t make a run for it.  You have only 20 minutes.  Toby Clairmont is the executive officer for emergency management.

“If you remain in your vehicle, we know that the effects of the weapon would be actually amplified.  This was validated during testing at the Nevada test site.  Your best scenario is, you get out of the vehicle and lay flat on the ground or if you can pull over right next to a concrete or other substantial structure, head for it.”

Residents should also have food, water and supplies for 14 days and have a plan for each family member and disabled relative.  But, Nick Lacarra from Ewa Beach, says the state should do more to protect residents.

“This eminent threat from North Korea, I understand the evacuation system.  But how is it under a nuclear threat, our citizens have no shelter to go to.  We spend billions of dollars on a rail system but we can’t protect our citizens in fallout shelters.  It doesn’t seem like we’re trying enough to protect our citizens.”

But, with only 20 minutes to prepare for impact, emergency management says “shelter in place” is the best option.  Honolulu resident Kim French recommends taking charge of your own situation.

“I don’t believe that we should put our lives and the lives of our children and community in the government.  They’re here to help us out in a general sense but we have to take individual responsibility for our own lives and safety.  The second part of that is things that are gonna come after the explosion, which is the fallout, the particles of contamination and materials after the detonation.”

Emergency Management will be conducting workshops to refine their plans and responses to potential nuclear attack.  Major General Joe Logan is the emergency management director and state adjutant general.

“The first responders in the community is all of you.  The police, the fire, the ambulance, workers and the communities are all busy trying to do the critical infrastructure to get the roads open.  Yes, the Guard’s coming, the law enforcement and first responders are coming.  But we may not get there immediately and so if you take care of yourselves and your community, it will be less work for everyone else.”

For more information on disaster preparedness, go to Ready.Hawaii.Gov.   Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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