Hawaii residents and visitors today heard a siren test that has not blared since the Cold War in the 1980s: an attack warning signal that state officials resurrected in light of the North Korean nuclear missile threat.
At 11:45 a.m. about 180 sirens on Oahu and 385 statewide blared the usual steady-tone “attention alert” that is meant for threats such as hurricanes or tsunamis. But that was followed by the wavering, one-minute attack warning signal to alert the public to a possible North Korean nuclear attack.
At the USS Arizona Memorial, which next week will commemorate the 76th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, mainland visitors reacted with “goose bumps” and concern after hearing the attack warning siren test.
Bruce and Jody Teasley, visitors from Oregon, said they knew from media reports that the North Korean warning siren test was coming today.
Bruce, 63, said it reminded him of WW II air-raid sirens. “I got goose bumps,” he said just outside the memorial visitor center. He added that it “took me a second, and then I remembered that we had seen the article in the paper about it and so then I remembered what it was about and what it actually was.
“Then I just started imagining the guys who were sitting here on duty that day (in 1941) when the attack happened and what must have going through their minds.”
The couple said the siren test did not make them uneasy to be in Hawaii, “because I know we have a pretty good missile defense system in place,” Bruce said.
His wife Jody, 61, added, “The other thing is that you can’t stop living your life.”
Melissa Henderson, 43, from Baton Rouge, La., who was visiting Pearl Harbor with her husband, Ron Henderson, 48, said she also was aware of the planned test.
“I actually got a breaking-news alert from CNN” two days before leaving for Hawaii, she said. “I was very concerned and even second-guessing whether or not we should still come in light of what I read.”
“I guess (that’s) the state of the world that we’re in today,” she said, adding, “It was just very frightening, on one hand, the fact that we have come to the point to where we have to actually test sirens in light of the threat of nuclear war. But on the other hand it is good that we are being proactive as a country in doing something to protect ourselves.”
Siren tests are conducted in Hawaii on the first business day of each month. The sirens are used to notify the public of any emergency that might pose a threat to life or property. It’s a cue for residents to turn on a radio or television for information and instruction for an impending emergency.
With the threat of a North Korean attack, the state added the wavering-tone warning siren to the monthly test for the first time today. The development has generated international attention to the islands.
Earlier this week North Korea resumed its provocative missile tests, with the latest weapon seen capable of reaching the East Coast.
Vern Miyagi, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, formerly Civil Defense, said Tuesday that audio messages accompany the siren tests and refer to the new tone. “It is critically important for the public to understand what each tone means,” Miyagi said.
The attack warning means people should seek immediate shelter in the most substantial structure possible because a North Korean missile could arrive in Hawaii just 20 minutes after launch.