What We Learned From “THIS IS NOT A DRILL”

January 15th, 2018 . by Felix

Emergency Alert

For 38 minutes, citizens of Hawaii were in an absolute panic after receiving the text message: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” It was not until they received another message: HAWAII – THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE TO HAWAII. I HAVE CONFIRMED WITH OFFICIALS THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE.

First, this is an unbelievable breakdown in procedures when one employee can send out such a message with no checks and balances and no way to immediately correct or retract it. Now had there been an actual missile threat, there would have been less than 30 minutes to take action. As frightening as the false alarm was, what was very clear is that most of the population is woefully unprepared for an emergency of this magnitude.

People’s reactions were understandably scared and frighten, not knowing what to do. “Seek Immediate Shelter” Where? People were hiding in their bathrooms and garages. One father was putting his child down a storm drain; others were pulling over and abandoning their cars to hide in tunnels. “Everyone was running around like, ‘What do we do?’ Were they running just because everyone else was? People were quickly realizing there was no where to go, and no help was available. Some tourists asked “where is the nearest nuclear shelter”. Many people were crying and calling loved ones. Others were trying to get to their children and families across town. The knee jerk reaction of others was to turn to Google or social media for more information. Precious time was wasted searching Facebook for more details. Others were able to keep somewhat calm and quickly pack a bag and grab a jug of water and other essentials. One news report even showed someone with the forethought to fill their bathtub with water.

Unfortunately, mass hysteria, panic and confusion in any emergency, even a false alarm can have serious consequences. Communication can quickly become overwhelmed and unusable, making it even more difficult to get in contact with loved ones. 911 call centers are flooded and are unable to respond to real emergencies. Traffic can quickly become congested and snarled blocking escape routes. People fearing they only have minutes to live may react in a way that would cause harm to themselves or others. Some may have even considered suicide. We have seen in previous emergencies such as a blackout where looting takes on a life of its own. Grocery stores and gas stations can quickly turn into a mob scene.

During the cold war, the United States was always under the threat of a missile attack. Back in the 1960’s people were more prepared in the event of a nuclear war. Fallout shelters were more common, civil defense shelters were clearly marked in every city. School children practiced duck and cover. People knew what to do. The prepper and survivalist community know what to do. The general population not so much.

But even back then, on more than one occasion, there were false alarms. The most famous was The Man Who Saved the World  Scary to think just one man prevented WW3

The greatest threat of a nuclear war is one that is started by accident. A technical glitch sets the wheels in motion that shows incoming missiles. With only minutes to decide to launch a counter attack, how will the military respond? In Hawaii the alert was sent when an employee hit the wrong button during a shift change, sending out the push notification that caused instant panic and confusion. What happens the next time when the wrong button is pushed? What happens when the commander in chief is given the wrong information and makes decisions based on false intel. We pray there are enough safeguards in place with checks and balances but as we saw in Hawaii that may not be a case. No, the state of Hawaii did not have the capability to launch a counter attack but the point is human error was at fault.

On Saturday evening, former Defense Secretary William Perry warned it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that a nuclear war could start by accident if proper safeguards aren’t taken.

“The risk of accidental nuclear war is not hypothetical — accidents have happened in the past, and humans will err again,”

What can we take away from all this? First, just because your friends and neighbors are not prepared doesn’t mean you don’t have to be.

When every second counts, taking time to pack a bag or gather supplies is time you won’t have. A bug out bag that you can grab and go will save precious time.

Where are you going to go? Plan in advance not just one location but several. In Hawaii most people had no clue.

What are your routes out of harm’s way? What are the alternatives?

How will you get in contact with family members? Where can you meet up if you are separated?

How fast can you bug out? You may only have 15 minutes or less. Take time to practice.

If you need to shelter in place what supplies do you have on hand? The recommended 72 hours of supplies may not be enough. Plan on at least two weeks worth of food and water.

What if you were on vacation during an emergency? As many people were in Hawaii. Can you find survival supplies quickly? Do you have a way to escape? Can you download a map of the area for offline use? Or do you plan on asking the hotel staff where the nearest fallout shelter is?

If you are at work, do you have a get home bag? And plans to get home as quickly as possible? Will your family meet you there or will you pick them up along the way?

In a year where we have seen floods, fires, mudslides, storms and false alarms, being unprepared is just not an option.

 

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