WARNING, THIS BLOG IS FULL OF OPINIONS. MY OPINIONS. IF THIS WERE INTENDED TO BE AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE, IT WOULD BE SHORTER AND LESS OBNOXIOUS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
To say that the errant nuclear bomb warning the other weekend was frustrating would be an understatement. Quite honestly, I think we’re all sick of the subject. So, of course, here I am writing about it. But since we’re all sharing our feelings, I have some strong ones (that, by the way, have taken a beating – but we’ll discuss that later)
Here’s what I know. An emergency warning was sent out at on Saturday, January 13. The message was extremely simple. It read “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL’. For me, I heard nothing. No warnings, no blaring alarm on my phone. Uncharacteristically of me, because I’m an early riser, I slept through almost all of it.
It wasn’t until I rolled out of bed at , shuffled out to the living room and looked at my phone that I even saw the alert. Now, admittedly, the correct response with such a notification is to SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. I’m not denying that in any way. But I'm going to add, there were in my case extenuating circumstances.
First and foremost, I had no idea what that would entail. I mean, I know what to do in a tsunami (seek higher ground). I even know which higher ground is preferable. I know what to do in a hurricane (I’m assigned to help out at the Cannon Activity Center). For both of these situations I have informational handouts posted in my home and I would follow them to the letter. But I had nothing about a nuclear attack. So, there I stood, blankly staring at a screen. "Huh", I thought. "This is random. What to do? Well, gee....I have no idea what to do."
My second thought was ‘I need to figure out what to do.’ I don’t believe running out the door in hysterics would be the right course of action. I have no safe place in this tiny little apartment full of humongous single pane windows with gaps so wide, Ron floods our bedroom when washing the windows. I may not know much, but I know enough that I would be toast if I stayed here and guess what? Most buildings in beautiful Laie are in the same condition. Being air tight here appears to be neither necessary nor achievable. So....literally I was a bit stumped.
My third thought, and this all came into my head in breakneck speed, was….. "You know….I don’t think this is real".
1. No siren. Where was the siren? We drill and drill and drill in Laie. The first day of every month, we have a siren. Because we are plugged into the emergency preparedness program at BYUH, we get alerts with clear instructions. Every missionary is assigned to participate in alerting and assisting the families assigned to them. Because Laie is so far away from Honolulu, and the State of Hawaii has made it crystal clear that during an emergency their resources and rescue efforts will go where the largest number of people are, we know that we are on our own, and because we be a ‘Mormon’ entity, we've accepted this inevitability and are probably far more prepared than most residents of the island.
Now I’ve been greatly chastised for this opinion that the lack of a siren is a sign that something isn't quite straight. "You don’t have time to worry about a siren' I've been told. Okay, fine. So I should be seeking shelter. But the truth of the situation still frustrates me. Why, I want to know, WAS THERE WAS NO SIREN? I’ve been researching this, rather endlessly because I feel deep inside my soul that I might be on to something (and because I'm obsessive,) and here is what I found out - all FROM OFFICIAL SOURCES (by-the-way):
From the FAQ section of the Hawaii Emergency Management System (EMS)
So, if there had been a real missile rocketing towards our tiny island in the middle of the ocean, it would have been detected by some very sophisticated tracking programs owned and operated by our highly trained US Government. The first alert, therefore, would come directly from the US Pacific Command, and this is how it would go:
"In the event of a genuine alarm, the US Pacific Command would issue a warning about five minutes after a missile is launched from North Korea. (That means they would alert local authorities)
About , Hawaii's State Warning Point would activate an "Attack-Warning" signal on all outdoor sirens and transmit a warning advisory on radio, television and mobile phones (that means a siren would be sounded and THEN the phones and televisions would start broadcasting the alert warning.)
That would give Hawaiian residents and visitors "less than 12 to 15 minutes before missile impact".
US Pacific Command government website
So, to make sure this point is clear, as official sources confirm, the FIRST THING THAT HAPPENS IS THAT THEY ACTIVATE THE SIREN, and THEN they send out the notices. And by the way, they just changed the siren this last year. They wanted it to be taken seriously, so the siren is now a loud, wailing, and extremely insistent and constant noise. It wouldn’t just sound off a few times and then stop. It has been built to be noticed….well, except for Ron. The man has literally proven that he could sleep through ANYTHING.
Seriously though, this doesn’t mean everyone will hear it. It sure doesn’t mean that everyone would believe it. But it would have been very unlikely that it simply wouldn’t have happened. So, I stand by my contention that the reason there was no alarm was BECAUSE IT WAS A FALSE ALARM.
But there’s more:
2. There were no instructions. Nothing, nada.
So, for those of us who have lived a few decades....I ask you: Do you remember those old Emergency Broadcast System warnings which said:
This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. Had this been an actual emergency, the signal you just heard would have been followed by emergency information, news or instructions. THIS IS ONLY A TEST.
Of course, this old alert system is no longer in service, but the purpose of the current system is still the same. Clearly outlined procedures prepared by official government agencies are already prepared and a system is set up for their distribution. They will be everywhere - television, radio, and phone.
Yet nothing was provided that Saturday morning except by, I gather, one television station which broadcast actual information of what to do (brownie points for them!) Why? Because a person sitting at a computer sent out a message that would have come as Step 2 or 3.
Meanwhile, Step 1, which was that official alert from the US Pacific Command Center, did not happen, so the procedures for both the pre-discussed siren and available information for what to do DID NOT HAPPEN. And the reason we never received it is undeniable.....BECAUSE THIS WAS A FALSE ALARM!
When I became aware of the alert, it was already 20 minutes into it. I flipped on the tv.....nothing. My phone, which usually won't stop screeching and buzzing when emergency messages are being shared, was silent. Radio? No. Internet? NO. Under the circumstance, I surprisingly made the conclusion that it was a mistake. And I was calm. And I did nothing....because I had nothing to tell me what to do and because it simply did not add up.
I’ve been greatly chastised for this opinion also. I gather I should not even consider taking the time, like I did, to seek information. Clearly I was wasting precious time seeking such information and questioning possibilities. I should have sought some unspecified shelter, like the terrified parents who tried to stuff their children down a manhole that would have placed these helpless children right in the middle of the methane gas filled sewer. Or driven down the street yelling for others to “take shelter because a bomb is coming". Or grab what I could - but didn't have - and climb in my bathtub, covering myself in radioactive proof blankets because the gaps around my bathroom window would clearly make any protection questionable. Forgive me for thinking that would not be helpful (not, mind you, that I'm mocking anyone who DID do that....but I would have been surrounded by glass sure to blow out...so for me, no option.
|Yep....the poor guy in the top right-hand corner....that would be me|
With the information I wish I had then, I now recognize that fact that I should have gone into the house attached to our apartment where I could have gathered blankets, food and medical supplies and my handy dandy hand-crank flashlight and radio (which I actually do have) and hunker down in the only room with no window that is low to the ground----the laundry room.
But wait, it would have done me almost no good. I live in a wood frame house, and that wonderful indoor laundry room? It isn't even close to airtight. In fact, it has major holes in the wall where previous repairs have been made on water pipes - BIG GAPING HOLES.
In actuality a brick building with no windows is the only appropriate place to live out a nuclear attack for the expected 14 days. But it would have to be close enough to get to in 10 minutes. Now let's see, That is probably the Cannon Activity Center at BYUH campus or the Hawaiian Journey Theater at the PCC or maybe Laie Palms Movie Theater - but only if the doors are open, which might or might not be the case early on a Saturday morning.
Let alone that this was already 20 minutes into the ‘attack’. It was a little late to do anything at that moment. But yes, I absolutely should have run for cover. Everyone should run for cover. But to do so mindfully, they NEED information in order to do so correctly.
Here's the bottom line for me: I’ve worked in public health for years and this much I've learned from experience: A government entity is not inclined to send out a wide spread message sure to instill mass panic without also sending clear instructions on what to do next through every available form of communication channels.....unless, of course, they screw up. When they screw up, you hear......NOTHING until they figure out the best butt-covering move they can come up with.
By the way - many people received an "all-clear" via their phone about 40 minutes later. I did not. Nor did Ron. I guess we should still be hunkered down, eh?
I do have one regret, and its a big one. I have a list of people Ron and I are assigned to call when a community emergency is happening. I should have called them. No doubt about it. It was my duty and responsibility. But I had no idea what to tell them. So I froze, because - and this is the contention that keeps getting me into trouble - I was right in figuring out that this was a false alarm. I can live with that. I should never assume I'm right when it comes to life or death. BUT what I can't settle out in my little brain is the fact that I'm irresponsible for pointing out the reasons in which I came to these conclusions but I would not have been wrong in heading out without a clue as to what to do, jumping into the fray of panic or trying to figure out with no information what 'take cover' would mean if such an attack was real.
Here's what I think was clearly wrong. I think it was inexcusable that the system was so easily screwed up. I think it was wrong that terrified tourists in Honolulu ran into the streets in mass confusion causing further hysteria. I think it was incredibly heartless that stores refused entrance and closed and locked their doors rather than let frightened and lost souls come in to probably some of the most protected (and lets admit it - prepared) places on the island. I mean, if I was 10 minutes away from a good ol' Costco, that's EXACTLY where I'd head.....let me tell ya!
4. I just want to talk a minute about the
.......Okay, change that - we do at least THINK we know the story now....this man has some issues - so are we going kill the crazy guy? Hmmmmm? Well fine, I'm going to strike all of my previous thoughts about whether he deserved to be fired or not but I'd also like to remind people that mental illness is not a joke. If he had problems and employees were concerned about them for many years then the problem clearly lies with the management, don't you think? The rest of this fits, however - so I'm keeping it:
We don’t make a better world by pointing fingers and making demands in a situation we don’t even understand.
We make a better world by researching what happened and being willing to learn and make changes from those mistakes.
As far as I’m concerned, we should count ourselves blessed that we found out all of these errors BEFORE something actually happens.
I can tell you one thing. I’ve got the information now. Lots and lots of it. 2 weeks too late for ‘the test that wasn’t meant to be a test,’ but definitely something I can pay attention to and do something about. So, whether I made the right assumptions or the wrong assumptions – whether I should have run screaming down the street banging on doors begging SOMEONE to SAVE ME or should have gotten on the Internet to figure out ‘what the heck’, I’m in a better position now. That seems like good news to me.