As North Korea tensions rise, Hawaii lawmakers frantically dust off the state’s emergency plans in preparing for the chance – however small – of an attack on the islands.
The plans were revisited last in the 1980s. However, the Hawaii House Public Safety Committee on Thursday officially requested for the state’s defense agency to restore their hundreds of Cold War-era fallout shelters and refill them with medical items, food, and water.
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“They haven’t been updated since 1985,” Rep. Matt LoPresti, a Democrat who serves as vice chair of that committee, told Hawaii News Now. “I was 11 years old when they were last updated. Many of the buildings that are on the fallout shelter list don’t exist anymore.”
A North Korean missile sent on Sunday to display the country’s nuclear and missile abilities in honor of the birthday of its late founder were unsuccessful just seconds after launch.
Nevertheless, satellite images demonstrate a sixth nuclear test has been primed. And experts have stated that North Korea owns, or could soon have, the capacity to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles or nuclear warheads at Hawaii.
A long-range missile sent from North Korea could get to Hawaii or Alaska, said Dean Cheng, the senior researcher with the Asian Studies Center at the conservative Heritage Foundation. Hawaii is probably a more attractive target, Cheng said, since the state has 11 military bases, which includes Pearl Harbor, and is the headquarters for the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) at Camp Smith.
Cheng cautioned that since North Korea likely has an imprecise system, missiles sent to Pearl Harbor could, in fact, hit downtown Honolulu or some other areas of Oahu.
The impact of a missile striking the island chain would be terrible, Cheng said. Burn cases would flood the hospitals. The state would need a strategy to treat people out of the urban Honolulu center, he stated, especially if Honolulu were hit directly.
While organizing the state for such an attack will require time, Cheng said the state must start.
“This is a long-term issue that is not going to go away,” Cheng stated.
Should North Korea start an attack, the state would have only 20 minutes to get ready, said Toby Clairmont, executive officer of the department’s Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. He informed lawmakers it could take seven years, to get the state ready for such an emergency and ensure suitable facilities for the state’s 1.42 million residents, involving its substantial homeless population, along with millions of visitors.
Since the greater part of Hawaii’s food supply and other goods are delivered via Jones Act-approved cargo ships to Honolulu Harbor, lawmakers also requested for the state to prepare alternative sites for food and supplies to be brought in should the harbor be ruined.
LoPresti shared with Hawaii News Now he’s not seeking to spread fear, however, he wants the public to know the government is taking measures to guard them in the worst-case scenario.
The resolution, that passed the committee unanimously, demands additional House and Senate approvals.