By Alyssa Futa, Opinion Writer
On January 13, many Hawaii residents received the notification that read, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” As parents sped to their children’s schools and people hid in their bathrooms, many were unaware that the alert was false. For 38 minutes, and for some even more than that, residents were in a panic. In a place where the main concern is tsunamis and flooding, many were unaware of how to approach the situation of an incoming ballistic missile, according to The New York Times.
Eventually, officials such as U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii took to social media platforms such as Twitter to alert the state that they were safe. However, the response time of both Hawaii’s emergency management is something worth scrutinizing. The emergency management agency responded on social media nearly 12 minutes after the initial alert was sent out. According to logistics, that is roughly the same amount of time it would take for a missile launched from North Korea to reach Hawaii. By the time a new alert was sent out that rectified the situation, it was nearly 40 minutes. The lack of usage by this agency is unacceptable and did nothing but cause chaos.
Governor Ige’s office is not immune to this scrutiny either. After being asked by news sources to release documents that would allow for the public to better understand the situation, reporters were greeted with a nearly $4,500 fee to access these documents. The governor’s office gave open records law exemptions as their reasoning for not being entirely transparent, according to The Washington Post. However, it begs the question of why there is a lack of clarification and accessibility to the information that relates to the security of a state? In a time where the relationship between North Korea and the United States is rocky at best, the state closest, and therefore in the most danger, should be able to have access to the information that relates to its security.
The inability for the governor’s office to allow the populace to access this information is suspicious at best. It is understandable to hide information such as the name of the individual who sent out the initial alert. However, it is unacceptable to put up such a multitude of roadblocks to access information that relates to safety. An ongoing investigation is in place, but there needs to be updates on the issue. Now that it is evident that Hawaii could suffer from a nuclear attack, it is unreasonable to ask the state to stand by as there is a silent investigation being conducted.
Ige also stepped out early during the hearing regarding the incident. Such a blatantly important issue should be treated with the importance it deserves. Not with disregard and a seemingly disinterested attitude. Though Hawaii residence are undoubtedly grateful for the false nature of the alert, it is obvious that there are flaws in the systems that surrounded the notification. Ige is going to have a difficult time recovering from the carelessness that surrounded his management of the incident, and with an election coming up, he has a lot to consider in how he moves forward.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 20th print edition.
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