Emergency officials explain why fallout shelters impractical for missile attacks

Even with increasing concerns over North Korea’s latest missile test, Hawaii emergency officials say there are no plans to update the state’s fallout shelters.

A state representative pushed emergency officials to update fallout shelters back in April, but on Thursday, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency told us it would not be practical to do so.

So why are fallout shelters now obsolete?

Officials explain, we will probably have less than 15 minutes to find shelter once we know that a missile has been launched our way.

Toby Clairmont, executive officer for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, says the time from launch to impact would be about 20 minutes, and it would take about five minutes to determine if Hawaii is at risk.

“What’s going to happen is you’re going to hear the sirens. You’re going to hear what goes off on the radio and on your smart phone, and you’ve got just a few minutes to protect yourself. There’s no time to be looking at a map or even driving a block. You need to take shelter right now,” said Clairmont.

Clairmont says since the Cold War ended in the 1980s, it’s not practical to update the old designated shelters.

“They no longer have supplies in them or radiological instruments,” Clairmon said. “We haven’t looked at them in terms of surveying new buildings and built others. We looked at the old list and there are buildings that are gone now. They were torn down, so right now, fallout shelters doesn’t look like our best strategy.”

Clairmont adds the main thing for people to do is to shelter in place, or stay at home, and if you’re not home, find the nearest building and get inside. Concrete buildings are the safest.

People will likely need to stay inside for up to 14 days, which makes it even more important to have a 14-day supply in your hurricane preparedness kit. You will need essentially the same type of supplies.

Emergency officials say you can expect power outages, and your cell phones will probably be useless, so one of the most important things to have in your supply kit is a basic AM radio.

Clairmont emphasizes that the possibility of an attack is still very low, which is why updating the shelters is not practical.

“If at some point the risk gets high enough and things change, we may need to go back that way, but right now, we’re not looking at that,” he said.

The state plans to release more details on what procedures schools and businesses should follow in the next couple of weeks.

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