Critics question state's campaign to prepare for North Korean attack

Critics question state's campaign to prepare for North Korean attack
Published: Jul. 21, 2017 at 9:36 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 22, 2017 at 12:42 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state's push to expand its disaster warning plan to include the threat of a North Korean nuclear missile attack is making headlines around the world.

But while some say it's critical to inform the public of what to expect, others are concerned it's creating bad publicity for the islands — and could deter some visitors from coming.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi said he's surprised at all the attention his agency has gotten in the last 24 hours.

"I'm glad it's out there because this is something where even if the threat is small, we can't ignore it," he said. "And we have the opportunity to share what we're doing about it."

But, Miyagi added, some of the headlines have been a bit sensational.

"When I see stuff like -- 'Hawaii prepares for nuclear attack' -- that's way overboard. We're not preparing for a nuclear attack," he said. "This is just a hazard, like tsunamis and hurricanes, that Hawaii faces. It's not impending. The threat is not mature. Probability is low. But we just want to get ahead of it."

Meanwhile, critics question why the announcement was made right in the middle of summer — when tourism in Hawaii is at its highest.

"The odds are so small right now and the possibility of this happening is so remote that it's not worth getting everybody into a major economic situation to plan for a major attack," Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa said.

Emergency officials counter that there really is not an ideal time to launch this type of campaign. But they believe it's appropriate now because schools can prepare for drills while students are on break. Testing of the siren warning system also usually happens around this time of year.

Miyagi said he is concerned about how this campaign could affect Hawaii's visitor industry, but some tourism officials aren't too worried.

"We certainly have marketed ourselves as one of the safest places to visit, if not in America, in the world," said Mufi Hannemann, Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association president and CEO. "If I were a visitor, I'd be pleased to know that Hawaii is taking steps and that I can continue to go there and feel safe."

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