Hawaii’s Government Needs Reflection

By Army Ballistic Missile Agency - http://history.redstone.army.mil/photos-abma_50s.html (direct link), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40090308

By Army Ballistic Missile Agency – http://history.redstone.army.mil/photos-abma_50s.html (direct link), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40090308

Jett Neeley, Editorial

I woke up on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 7:30 a.m. to get ready to go to the dentist because I had a filling that needed to be fixed. I arrived at the dentist just like any other day. They brought me to the operating room where they prepared me to fix my broken filling, sat me in those very awkward chairs and gave my cheek three large pinches of Novakaine.

“Okay, so it’ll take about five minutes for the lower teeth to get numb so we’ll leave you for now and come back once you’re all numbed up!” So I proceeded to wait.

While I was waiting, I thought I heard some weird noise coming from the faint radio they play throughout their office, but thought nothing of it. I then received a rather large buzz on my phone. I thought, “Who’s calling me?” I then saw it was an emergency message. “

“Ah, another flash flood warning.” What I proceeded to read couldn’t have been further from a flash flood warning.

“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” I had to read it twice to truly comprehend what I just read.

Once I understood it I shot up out of the chair like Agent Smith from The Matrix, calling out to the office, “Hello? Anybody else get this message?”

I saw my dad at the end of the long hallway to the waiting room waving me on like those people waving on airplanes, yelling “Let’s go! Let’s go!”

My dad has since informed me that he will never forget the magisterial sight of his son running down a hallway with his dentist bib still on and a droopy face. This was my Saturday morning and it wasn’t even close to the most hectic on the island. All this chaos caused by one mistake from a single individual, a mistake that was preventable but instead caused chaos and mass panic. I think this is why now is the perfect time for reflection of our local government and its shortcomings.

For a solid 15 minutes, my family and I thought we might die. We were sending texts because all the phone lines were blocked by everybody else fearing the worst. The only information to calm people came from Twitter from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D), Sen. Maize Hirano (D), and Sen. Brian Schatz (D) confirming the suspicions of some that it was indeed a false alarm.

The biggest problem was how long the public was left in the dark. It took 38 minutes to receive an all clear from the emergency alert system. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency doesn’t seem to grasp how big a problem this really was.

Vern Miyagi, administrator of HEMA, when asked during a press conference in the fallout of the false miss alert about the response time, replied with a simplistic (choose one or find a unique/different adjective) answer, “We need to work on our response time.”  

“We need to work on our response time,” is a huge understatement.

In fact, this statement makes me think they don’t comprehend how big of a mistake they made. People thought they were going to die. That is not something to be brushed off; it should be taken very seriously.

Another way their misunderstanding of the situation can be seen is that they didn’t even interrupt programs to alert it was false. Hawaii News Now did, but HEMA only ran an alert that scrolled across the screen. I don’t know about you but I’d rather you interrupt my programming to tell me I’m not going to die.

It’s important, however, in times like these to find the silver lining. The silver lining in this situation is our flawed alert system. Not the fact that it was a mistake but if it wasn’t, countless people would have died. There was no emergency message broadcast over the radio, the new missile warning sirens didn’t go off, and not everyone got the emergency message on their phones. If this had been a real attack many people would have died because they wouldn’t have known it was happening. So let’s take this gigantic mistake and make it into a positive by creating change and fixing the system.

To people who say that I’m going too far, that this was just a simple mistake and there shouldn’t be consequences, I ask why? Why should the people who are responsible for terrorizing us be let off with just a warning? People who put us in more danger now because the next time we receive a message like this no one will know if it’s real or not. That is why these people deserve consequences; that is why change is required.

            The only real solution to this problem is to pressure our officials to improve our defense system so if anything like this ever happens again we’ll either have a quicker response time or a better warning system and be prepared for whatever happens.