State report: Hawaii not prepared for missile attack threat

Updated: Feb. 20, 2018 at 5:03 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii is not prepared to respond in the event a nuclear ballistic missile attack.

That's according to a comprehensive state report that looked at the false missile alert sent to all Hawaii phones on Jan. 13 and sought recommendations for preventing another false alarm — and bolstering preparedness for a threat that the state has stressed is unlikely but not impossible.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige and other officials presented the 31-page report at a news conference Tuesday, saying its 44 short- and long-term recommendations provide a road map for moving forward.

"We are identifying gaps and vulnerabilities for handling all hazards so the residents in our state can be prepared," Ige said. "As we take these action steps described in the report we will become a stronger and more resilient community."

The report stresses that better training, more robust plans and greater coordination between the state and federal government is needed to prepare for an attack — and make sure the state doesn't send out another false alarm.

It also urges the state to keep its ballistic missile preparedness campaign on hold (except for monthly siren tests) until a plan can be put in place to analyze chemical, biological, radiogical and nuclear threats to Hawaii — and until the majority of residents know "what to do, where to go and when to do it" in the event of an attack.

That means the campaign could be offline for months.

[It's been a month since Hawaii's false missile alert. Here's what's changed] [Hawaii 'button pusher' says he was '100% sure' missile threat was real]

"It is important to note that HI-EMA (Hawaii Emergency Management Agency) is prepared for and stands ready to immediately respond to and provide support to the counties of Hawaii ensuring rapid recovery from natural and man-made disasters — with the exception of nuclear capable ballistic missile attack," the report said.

Brig. Gen. Kenneth S. Hara, the state's deputy adjutant general, wrote the report with a team of advisers — and they finished it earlier than the 60 days the governor gave them.

The report concludes, as others have, that human error was to blame for the false missile alert and that the "button pusher's" apparent misunderstanding (he thought a test was actual a real threat) was exacerbated by a series of leadership failures at the emergency management agency.

It also blamed a lack of systems in place for the state's 38-minute delay in sending out a correction.

And the report concluded the state's ballistic missile alert system was set up without residents knowing what to do in the aftermath of an attack.

Ige and others noted the report also underscores how vulnerable the state would be if there were a real disaster, natural or man-made. It cites Hawaii's aging infrastructure and says Honolulu's only port and the state's airports, power grid, fuel storage and hospitals could be inundated.

The report's recommendations for the state include:

  • Coordinate with federal entities to determine their future plans for addressing the ballistic missile threat.
  • Work with stakeholders to develop response and recovery plans, including looking at the feasibility of re-instituting "fallout shelters."
  • Better fund the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and look at long-term threats more strategically.
  • Ensure agency leaders are focused on mitigating known "capability gaps."

This story will be updated.

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