Here's what to do in the event of an actual nuclear attack

Published: Jan. 15, 2018 at 7:09 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 16, 2018 at 12:08 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the wake of Saturday's false inbound missile alarm, many Hawaii residents were left with this question: So, what should I do if the attack is real?

Hawaii started preparing for the remote but not impossible threat of a nuclear attack in 2017, amid increased tensions with North Korea.

Hawaii News Now compiled these guidelines from the state's emergency preparation presentations:

  • How much time would Hawaii have to prepare for impact?

Hawaii would have about 20 minutes to prepare before a missile launched in North Korea makes impact in Hawaii.

During that time, the state would send out a mobile phone alert and activate wailing sirens.

The official rule of thumb for residents after being told of an imminent missile attack is this: "Get inside. Stay inside. Stay tuned."

  • What would the effects of a missile attack be in the islands?

Hawaii's nuclear attack plans are based on the consequences of a 150 kiloton nuclear weapon detonated at 1,000 feet.

That weapon would exact a significant toll on Hawaii, but it would not decimate the entire population.

In fact, Hawaii's head of emergency management says about 80 percent of people in Hawaii would survive the blast.

Here's a look at what the effects would be:

— As many as 18,000 fatalities and 120,000 people with significant trauma

— About 15 to 30 percent of survivors exposed to initial radiation fallout

— Severe damage at Honolulu's airport and Honolulu harbor

— Widespread structural fires and building collapses, including damage to hospitals

— Loss of critical communications, including radio, cell phone service and the internet

— Loss of electrical and water utilities

  • Should I really shelter in place?

Once you "get inside," whether that's your home, your office or a business, you really should stay there, officials say.

Any structure is better than being out in the elements, but the safest buildings have brick or concrete walls.

Once you're inside, close all windows and doors and go to a basement or to the center of the building, away from windows and outer walls.

If you're in a car, pull to the side of the road and find a building. A car will not protect you from radiation.

Whatever you do, don't look at the flash of light.

  • How much protection will my home really afford me?

To be sure, not all structures are created equal.

And in Hawaii, many homes are wooden, single-wall construction.

The best protection can be found in concrete or brick structures underground, especially underneath a large office or apartment building.

On a scale from 1 to 200, with 1 being the least amount of protection and 200 being the most, a brick or concrete basement under a two- or three-story home will afford you protection in the 20-50 range.

And the protective number assigned to that single-story, wood frame home: About 2 to 3.

  • How long will I have to stay inside after the blast?

After the initial explosion, the concern becomes radiation fallout.

Not all communities would be at equal risk, but state officials have said residents should be prepared to remain indoors for 14 days.

After a nuclear explosion, the concern is deadly radiation.

There are steps you can take to offer yourself additional protection.

Radioactive material settles like dust on your clothing and your body, and it's important to decontaminate yourself as much as possible.

Do that by removing your outer layer of clothing and sealing it in a plastic bag.

Then, wash yourself off. Take a shower with lots of soap, but not use hair conditioner as that will cause radioactive materials to stick to your hair.

Then, gently blow your nose and wipe your eyes and ears with a clean cloth.

  • Should I also decontaminate my home?

Food in sealed containers, unspoiled food in your fridge or freezer and medicine in sealed containers would be safe.

To avoid consuming radioactive dust, use a damp towel to clean cans, bottles, packaged foods, counters, plates, pots and utensils.

Seal cleaning towels in plastic bags and keep them away from humans or pets.

Meanwhile, bottled water is best, but tap water is an option if nothing else is available.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.