Hawaii to resume Cold War-era nuclear
siren tests amid North Korea threat
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[November 28, 2017]
By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) - Hawaii this week will resume
monthly statewide testing of its Cold War-era nuclear attack warning
sirens for the first time in about 30 years, in preparation for a
potential missile launch from North Korea, emergency management
officials said on Monday.
Wailing air-raid sirens will be sounded for about 60 seconds from more
than 400 locations across the central Pacific islands starting at 11:45
a.m. on Friday, in a test that will be repeated on the first business
day of each month thereafter, state officials said.
Monthly tests of the nuclear attack siren are being reintroduced in
Hawaii in conjunction with public service announcements urging residents
of the islands to "get inside, stay inside and stay tuned" if they
should hear the warning.
"Emergency preparedness is knowing what to expect and what to do for all
hazards," Hawaii Emergency Management Agency chief Vern Miyagi said in
one video message posted online. He did not mention North Korea
But the nuclear attack sirens, discontinued since the 1980s when the
Cold War drew to a close, are being reactivated in light of recent test
launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles from North Korea deemed
capable of reaching the state, agency spokeswoman Arlina Agbayani told
A single 150-kiloton weapon detonated over Pearl Harbor on the main
island of Oahu would be expected to kill 18,000 people outright and
leave 50,000 to 120,000 others injured across a blast zone several miles
wide, agency spokesman Richard Rapoza said, citing projections based on
assessments of North Korea's nuclear weapons technology.
While casualties on that scale would be unprecedented on U.S. soil, a
fact sheet issued by the agency stressed that 90 percent of Hawaii's 1.4
million-plus residents would survive "the direct effects of such an
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Oahu, home to a heavy concentration of the U.S. military command
structure, as well as the state capital, Honolulu, and about
two-thirds of the state's population, is seen as an especially
likely target for potential North Korean nuclear aggression against
the United States.
In the event of an actual nuclear missile launch at Hawaii from
North Korea, the U.S. Pacific Command would alert state emergency
officials to sound the attack sirens, giving island residents just
12 to 15 minutes of warning before impact, according to the state's
In that case, residents are advised to take cover "in a building or
other substantial structure." Although no designated nuclear
shelters exist, staying indoors offers the best chance of limiting
exposure to radioactive fallout.
The siren tests are being added to existing monthly tests of
Hawaii's steady-tone siren warnings for hurricanes, tsunamis and
other natural disasters. Those alerts also undergo monthly tests on
radio, TV and cellphone networks.
When emergency management officials initiated the new warning
campaign, "there were concerns we would scare the public," Miyagi
said in a recent presentation. "What we are putting out is
information based on the best science that we have on what would
happen if that weapon hit Honolulu or the assumed targets."
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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