This morning, at around 8:15am, this emergency alert was sent to everyone in the state of Hawaii.
Two minutes before that, it was just another Saturday morning. My family just had breakfast, my dad was about to pick up my niece and nephew from my sister’s house so she could do some laundry. As for me, I was literally just posting something to my Instagram story when I got the alert.
I thought it was a joke. But then, in the back of my mind, I thought, “It really couldn’t be a joke. I mean, this was sent through the ‘Emergency Alert’, so maybe it is true?”
My first instinct was to check the news. So, I turned on my TV to CNN, HLN, and even Fox News (to my dismay.) What did I find?
Surely, if there was a missile launched to target a U.S. STATE, it would make national headline news, right? Well, there wasn’t any news on that. Not even on the news ticker on the bottom, so I was confused. I flipped through all the basic cable stations to see if the local news sent out a breaking news alert or if the emergency alert would flash on the screen, as it would for natural disasters in Hawaii. But there still wasn’t anything.
My brother rushed out to get his girlfriend in the panic. My sister called and asked if I got the alert. I told her I did but I didn’t find any other notification on it.
Then, I found an emergency warning flash on PBS of all channels. I kept it on and read the information to my sister over the phone. Then I asked her if she wanted my dad to get her and the kids so she wasn’t alone.
So my dad left to get my sister and her kids (they live about ten minutes away from us), I waited at home with my mom and grandma. We shut all the windows and doors and stayed away from them. I waited in silence and prayed, wondering why the sirens to alert everyone didn’t go off yet.
To give you a background on this, every first business day of the month, a siren goes off at around 11:45am for a few minutes all over the state of Hawaii. It’s the civil defense agencies checking if the sirens are working so they can use it in case of a real natural disaster or emergency. In December 2017, due to growing concern of nuclear missile threats from North Korea, the state decided to include the nuclear attack siren after the one for natural disaster emergencies, a siren that hasn’t been used since the end of the Cold War era.
The first time they used the alarm in December, I remember thinking it was eerie and haunting. But I didn’t hear it at all this morning.
So, so far, I was:
- In a panic over the alert
- Not sure what to believe because no other news outlet was reporting this at all
- Wondering why the scary-ass nuclear warning siren didn’t go off
On my family’s Facebook page, everyone was posting comments to stay safe, let each other know we’re all in their thoughts and prayers and that we are loved, and just updating each other with what we know. Then, my niece in Las Vegas sent us a screenshot of Hawaii News Now saying the alert was a mistake.
She sent that screenshot about ten minutes after she sent her love to the family Facebook group. Slowly, I started to feel more at ease and less afraid of the potential missile attack, but I wasn’t entirely in the clear because we didn’t get the message from the Emergency Alerts system itself.
Finally, we did. The news outlets have been reporting that it was 38 minutes after the initial alert that the state sent out that it was “false alarm”.
Honestly, I cannot confirm the times with y’all because I wasn’t keeping track of anything but to make sure my family and friends were safe throughout the entire situation. But after that second alert was sent, the national news outlets started reporting it.
With all the confusion, though, I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like there should’ve been more to do than find shelter and to close windows and doors. I felt so unprepared. The only thing I could think of to do was to hold my grandma close and just pray.
It was 38 minutes of terror and confusion. I tried so hard to stay calm so that my family could stay calm, too. But I still couldn’t shake off the feeling of being unprepared.
What can you do to prepare yourself for this event? You have such a short amount of time to wonder what will happen during the strike and what to do after.
My family has a surplus of canned food and bottled water (mostly because we have it leftover from family parties), but we don’t have everything isolated in one bin or space. We didn’t have an emergency plan (mostly because we operate in a, “When it happens, it happens” kind of mindset.)
It would definitely put my mind at ease to know what to expect and what to do. So while everyone was keeping themselves updated on these events and was rightfully upset about the whole ordeal, I decided to educate myself first.
I found this plan on Ready.gov for nuclear attacks. Here are some takeaways:
There are three factors that will help protect you from radiation and fallout of a nuclear missile –
- Distance (the farther away you are from the fallout particles, the better),
- Shielding (using heavier materials are better to shield you from fallout particles), and
- Time (fallout radiation loses its intensity fast, so radiation levels are the greatest but after two weeks, levels could decrease.)
Before a nuclear strike:
- Make an emergency plan for your family
- Prepare an emergency kit
- Locate any fallout shelters or blast shelters if there are any in your area
During an attack:
Among other things listed on the Nuclear blast page, here are what I believe most people in Hawaii can do.
- Listen to any kind of official information and follow instructions from officials and emergency response personnel.
- Take cover as soon as the alert is sent. Underground is better but just take shelter.
- Stay indoors at all times unless otherwise notified
I was also told during my school’s nuclear attack drill to close all the windows and doors and seal them. Also, we had to turn off all fans and air conditioners.
The basic takeaway is to take cover and stay indoors and make sure that everything is sealed, the walls are thick enough. Most homes in Hawaii are built without basements, so it is encouraged to stay as below ground as you possibly can.
I would include what to do after an attack, but I’ll just provide a link to Ready.gov one more time here.
I don’t want to add speculation or any angry theories in this post. I just wanted to make sure everyone who was affected by this (the entire state of Hawaii, pretty much), is educated on what to do. There were many people that were panicked during those 38 minutes, not sure what to do.
I hope this can help anyone, not only in Hawaii but anywhere that could be a potential missile target.