Locals react to North Korea’s nuclear program

Vern Miyagi talks about nuclear preparedness -Susannah Shores

In response to recent news regarding North Korea’s advancing nuclear capabilities, there have been a variety of reactions from WCC students and staff, city and county officials, and Kāne‘ohe community members. The reactions range from somewhat concerned to very concerned while some people just don’t care about the issue at all.

In a disaster preparedness talk on campus on Oct. 31, retired U. S. Army Major General and administrator for the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency Vern Miyagi explained the possible emergencies the state of Hawai’i could face, what preparations are in place, and most importantly, what you can do to keep yourself safe.

“Have a plan–get ahead of the event,” Miyagi said. “This is for all disasters. For a nuclear attack, the basic guidance is to shelter in place–but you have to know where that place is ahead of time. These places may also vary during the day, depending where you and your family are located. Look for a substantial shelter, preferably made of concrete or brick and below ground. If you are indoors, stay indoors. This is for all members of your family. Get inside, stay inside, stay tuned. Also keep up to date on the situation in North Korea and get akamai (educated) on nuclear weapon effects.”

As far as the available on-campus shelters, WCC vice chancellor of administrative affairs Brian Pactol said there aren’t any shelters and that faculty, staff and students are advised to shelter in place in interior rooms. This is true for the entire state though.

“There are no designated fall-out shelters in the state right now,” Miyagi said. “There were many such shelters, marked by the ʻfall-out shelter’ signage, during the Cold War. However, since the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, no more resources were dedicated to maintaining and stocking these shelters. We should also note that ‘fall-out shelters’ are not ‘blast shelters.’”

Miyagi then went on to explain that blast shelters have to be very sturdy in order to shield people from the initial blast of the explosion, whereas fall-out shelters only need to insulate and keep people safe from remaining nuclear materials afterward.

Miyagi said it is important to be prepared but not something to be worried or anxious about right now.

“Such an event is deemed unlikely at this time,” he said. “This assessment is based on technological missile and warhead challenges that North Korea still has to develop. It also considers that Hawai‘i comes under the defensive umbrella of U. S. Pacific Command. The primary factor however is that if North Korea ever decides to launch against the U. S. and/or our allies, it will mean the end of the North Korean regime. Our folks should not be worried about an imminent disaster at this time, however it is our responsibility at Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency and the county emergency management and civil defense agencies to prepare our Hawai‘i ‘ohana for all potential disasters.”

WCC student William Robinson said he has been interested in the idea of nuclear disaster for awhile and even chose to do a project on it for his speech class.

“I just thought it was important that everyone knows how to be prepared in case something like that should happen,” Robinson said. “I think it is important to be informed on issues but to an extent because you don’t want panic at all. But everyone should have and know their action plan.”Other students feel that preparation wouldn’t matter. “Personally, I don’t feel as though being informed on this issue is going to

make much of a difference if a nuclear attack would take place here on the island as the likelihood of surviving the attack is minimal at best

regardless if you’re prepared or not,” said a UH West O‘ahu student who wished to remain unnamed.

WCC student Chelsea Wong said, “If there’s not somewhere safe to be on campus, I’d probably just leave. I’d rather take my chances and be able to get to somewhere where I feel I have a better chance of surviving.”

But Pactol said it is better to stay put.

“While our campus does not have any certified fallout shelters, we encourage everyone to seek shelter immediately, on-campus if necessary, should the early warning sirens sound and follow guidance from the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency when it is clear to come out.”

For more information on safety and security in the event of nuclear disaster, visit the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency website at dod.hawaii.gov/hiema.


by Susannah Shores, Ka‘Ohana Staff Reporter