Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Contingency Plans on North Korea

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Talking Points – North Korea Ballistic Missile Hazard 

What is the Current Situation?

  • At this point we know of no imminent threat of a nuclear ballistic missile attack and there are doubts regarding North Korea’s capability to conduct such an attack against Hawaii. Our citizens and visitors should not be alarmed – and as stated in some earlier interviews “the sky is not falling.” Hawaii is operating normally and open to visitors.

What is Hawaii doing in response to the growing NK nuclear missile threat?

  • Hawaii is continuing its monitoring of the situation in NK, in coordination with United States Pacific Command and the county emergency management agencies.
  • Maintaining and exercising notification protocols with USPACOM via secure communications. Integrated Public Alert and Warning Systems (IPAWS) notification tools.
  • We are updating our emergency plans with a primary focus on what actions to take upon notification of an attack.
  • Know: Where to go, what to do, when to do it, what to bring. For nuclear events: Get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned.  Due to very short warning time – will need to shelter in place:  know that place and prepare that place ahead of time.
  • We are also re-assessing the old fall-out shelter lists and whether such lists are effective.
  • Our partners: City and County of Honolulu, other counties, Dept. of Health, State Department of Defense, other state agencies, USPACOM, FEMA, DHS, and others.

What would be your main message to the people of Hawaii?

  • Maintain your situational awareness of what is going on regarding the events in N. K.
  • Know: Where to go, what to do, when to do it, and what to bring. This is for all disaster events (hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.). For nuclear events add: Get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned. Plan and know this ahead of time.
  • Pre-identify shelters – concrete, below ground, improvised, ahead of time.  During all times of the day/night.  Shelter in place.  Again Know your place and prepare your place ahead of time.
  • Have a personal/family plan to accomplish the above.
  • Have a personal/family plan to accomplish the above. Discuss actions with family and friends ahead of time. Each member should know what the other will do for emergency events given each circumstance. No cell phone contact – actions are known and automatic.   Main problem is that missile arrival time, from launch to impact is very short.


Major Considerations:

  • Missile arrival time is less than 20 minutes. First indication may be impact – bright flash.
  • No time to evacuate or seek appropriate shelter. Shelter in place – the primary option. Know where that “place” is and prepare it.  Again – know where to go, what to do, when to do it, and what to bring.
  • Shelter goal – put as many walls and as much concrete, brick, and soil between you and the outside.
  • Anticipated impact area – Honolulu (Barbers Point, Pearl Harbor, Honolulu Harbor area).
  • Radiation hazard due to nuclear fall-out. Get inside, stay inside, stay tuned.
  • An important point – the City and County of Honolulu is the major player in this event. HI-EMA’s role at the state level is to support the counties’ efforts.
  • No cell-phone contact.
  • Fall-out shelters are not bomb/blast shelters.
  • Significant number of casualties/victims.
  • Electromagnetic pulse effect on communications and vital systems.

The United States Pacific Command is based in Pearl Harbor and Hawaii has a very high concentration of U.S. military commands making it both a strategic & symbolic target.

While the US military may have contingency plans for such an event from a military perspective, civilian agencies must also be prepared.

These civilian plans have not been updated since 1985 and the capabilities of shelters have declined steadily into non-existence since the end of the Cold War.

The role of the House Committee on Public Safety includes overseeing programs relating to civilian emergency and disaster response.

As Vice-Chair of that committee, Rep. LoPresti proposed legislation that would update disaster preparedness plans and shelters which could include natural or manmade disasters originating close to home, or from foreign lands.

If some experts are correct that North Korea does now have or soon will have the capability to reach the Hawaiian Islands with an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear (chemical or biological) warhead, it stands to reason that the government of North Korea would pose an imminent threat to the people of Hawaii.

Despite whom you talk to, or whom you believe, as far as the nuclear delivery capabilities of North Korea, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst is the burden of our government.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is unpredictable and wields absolute power in the nuclear capable country.  Mix that with an unpredictable foreign policy of a new US President and we have reasons to worry.

It has been theorized that an intercontinental ballistic missile could travel from North Korea to Hawaii in 20 minutes.

The Hawaiian Islands have no land-based access to outside assistance.  We cannot evacuate or drive supplies from the next town over so we have reason to be extra vigilant.

In passing this legislation, it would be resolved that:

  1. The Hawaii Department of Defense updates its disaster preparedness plans
  2. Identify locations for usable fallout shelters, upgrade outdated fallout shelters, and update shelter signage, markings, provisions, and public awareness
  3. Develop state lands that would accommodate mass storage infrastructure for shipping containers
  4. Identify ports outside of the Island of Oahu that may be used in the case Oahu ports are disabled in the event of a disaster
  5. And request the Hawaii Department of Defense report its findings and recommendations for such matters before the convening of the next legislative session

For all these reasons, Rep. LoPresti proposed this legislation, hopes that the Hawaii State Legislature passes it, and hopes the State Government will act towards these ends whether the resolution passes or not.

Lastly, Rep. LoPresti hopes that the Trump Administration and Congress would provide Hawaii with funds to accomplish these important goals, as they once did during the Cold War.