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State delays test of air raid sirens amid concerns from neighbor islands

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    People watch the launch of a Hwasong-12 strategic ballistic rocket aired on a TV screen at the Pyongyang Train Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Saturday. Hawaii officials continue to work on a preparedness plan in the unlikely event of a North Korean nuclear attack on the islands.

Residents across the state won’t hear an air raid warning sound test on Nov. 1 as planned after neighbor island county officials raised concern over the potential fear and panic that the North Korea attack tone could create, even in a test, a state preparedness official said today.

The “wavering” sound, a throwback to air raid warnings of World War II and not heard in Hawaii since the Cold War, was to be paired with the regular monthly “attention alert” steady tone siren test on the first business day of each month at 11:45 a.m. for hurricanes or tsunamis.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency plans to roll out the attack warning siren tests as part of a preparedness plan for the unlikely event of a North Korean nuclear attack on the islands.

“We need to work things out with the counties,” said Vern Miyagi, agency administrator. “When they took it (the attack siren) out to the counties, there was concern whether the two siren sounds would cause confusion or misunderstanding — because we’re so used to the single siren sound.

“So we want to make sure that we have complete buy-in from the counties and we do it the right way ahead of time,” Miyagi added.

He also said that the agency is “still preparing that product — that (attack warning) siren capability.” But no firm date has been set for the siren test statewide.

Miyagi revealed the siren delay today at a public update at the state Capitol auditorium on preparedness planning for a possible North Korean attack on Hawaii.

The state is planning for the possibility of a 100-kiloton explosion 100 feet above ground and a 3- to 4-mile blast zone. By comparison, the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was about 15 kilotons.

Hawaii Emergency Management has guidance on its website and a “frequently asked questions” section. Surviving the immediate effects of a nuclear detonation, including blast, shock, thermal radiation and initial nuclear radiation, requires sheltering immediately in resistant structures, the agency said.

One of the questions answered is: “Are the neighbor islands safe?”

“We do not know,” the Hawaii Emergency Management website says. “North Korean missile technology may not be adequately advanced to accurately target a specific island or location. Although most analysts believe the desired target will be Oahu given the concentration of military and government facilities, a missile may stray and impact the open ocean or even a neighbor island. All areas of the state of Hawaii must consider the possibility of missile impact.”

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