Prepper To Prepper: The Hawaii Missile Alert, This Is Not A Drill

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hawaii missile alert

In case you hadn’t heard, on a sunny Saturday morning, January 13, 1.4 million people received this Hawaii missile alert on their cell phones:

This was what the residents of Hawaii had feared, and predictably, there was mass panic. Tearful phone calls saying good-bye to loved ones were made by the thousands. People raced toward shelters of any kind — a shopping mall, random building, anything that could provide protection. One video showed parents placing their small children in a storm drain, hoping they, at least, would survive the blast if, indeed, the Hawaii missile alert had been real.

Can you imagine having to make such a decision? It brings tears to my eyes because I know the heart of a mom and dad is all about keeping their children safe, even if their own lives are in danger.

In one instance, a very savvy young man advised his fellow apartment dwellers to take shelter in an underground tunnel that connected their apartment to the outdoors. Clearly, this young man had taken notice of this tunnel and thought about how and when it could come in handy. WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) expert, (Ret.) Army Chemical Expert, Major David L. Jones, insists that even a nuclear event is survivable if you have planned, prepped, and know what to do.

One of my readers, Cassandra, was in Hawaii on vacation and had this to say,

“My first thought was to get my kids and us dressed! And then it was, “Crap! Close the windows!” We have no car here, and nowhere to go, so we were going to shelter in place. As far as I know, we aren’t near any military installations or big cities (we are staying outside of Kona). And then I started thinking about what supplies we have here- which isn’t much at all. And there was a bit of fatalism, figuring that if it is our day to die, then it’s our day, and not much I could do about it. And we were burning up our phones on social media both to get the word out and to find out what was really happening. But it was a good 10-15 minutes of fear.

It was a bit paralyzing, knowing I couldn’t do much in this situation to keep my kids safe. I’m grateful it was a false alarm. At home we have supplies and plenty of food, but here on vacation, not so much. We did just go to the grocery store last night, so we have several days worth of food, but only an electric stove to cook with if we couldn’t go outside. Otherwise, no preps here, and very little with us.”

Learn from the Hawaii missile alert

What happened in Hawaii with the “this is not a drill” notification, is certainly be a wake-up call. It’s not fear-mongering to suggest in the current state of world tension and antagonism that someday an alert like this one would be for real. My guess is that you have been thinking, as I have, “What would I do if that alert popped up on my phone?” If you haven’t given it any thought, it’s time to do so! Just like the young man who knew of that concrete tunnel, you should also take note of possible shelters, and assess what you have with you right at this moment that could help with your survival.

Just in case you’ve decided to just sit back and watch the mushroom cloud, or even run toward it in hopes of dying a quick death, you need to know 2 very important things.

First, a nuclear blast is survivable. (Keep in mind that most missiles will not include a nuclear warhead.) Unless you are in the direct blast zone or within a mile or two, yes, you’ll survive. How you’ll survive is what you need to consider right now.

  • Will you have a plan to quickly get in touch with your family? Once a launch is made public, you’ll likely have 15-30 minutes to prepare.
  • Which room in your home has the least amount of windows and could act as a shelter? The force of a missile blast will be felt for many miles around, causing structural damage. Flying shards of glass is a danger you can mitigate with some planning.
  • How can you equip that safe room so it contains the most necessary supplies to last for a week or two?
  • What is your plan to get in touch with family, and will they know what to do?
  • What if you’re in your vehicle and get the alert? Is your car equipped for survival? One civil defense experts makes a good case that an underground parking garage could provide a decent shelter, even in a nuclear event. You would have very thick concrete walls protecting you — something to consider.

The second point you should know is this — suppose you do manage to die a quick, merciful death. What about your kids? Your grandkids? What kind of future will they face on their own? Foraging for food, drinking tainted water, becoming easy targets for human predators…is that really the future you would wish upon them? For that reason alone, it makes sense to become educated about nuclear events, how to prepare for them, and how to survive them.

A fatalist attitude helps no one:

“What’s the point of prepping? We should make our peace with whomever we worship and make sure you hug your kids and loved ones every day since we have no idea when the end is.”

Over on my Facebook page (and please check out my various Facebook groups to find one that suits you), I asked my readers how they would react if they received a missile alert. The now infamous Hawaii missile alert has made a lot of people begin thinking like preppers.

From Christine:

Duct tape and plastic. Hawaii could use this as a drill to get prepared.

From Donna: 

Get mom into the most secure room in the house (bathroom.) Toss in go bags (water 2 days, change of clothes, copies of id, food bars 2 days, folding knives, 2 days meds, can openers, and leatherman tools.) While I gather canned food, mom fills tub. After that, pray. If direct hit nothing will help.

From Sara:

Start somewhere. Even if all you can do is buy a 7-gallon water container, or an extra can or 2 of food each time you shop. Do SOMETHING. Anything is better than nothing. It all adds up.

From Bethanne:

Cover the wellhead and a few feet around it, and the HVAC units, with plastic/vinyl. Then cover and tape as many doors and windows as I could on the DC side. If time permitted, the other side as well to keep anything airborne out, especially for the first few days.

If the kids were home, I would have them fill the water bags designed to go in the tubs and get as much potential flying debris as possible secured to minimize the chances of things flying through the doors and windows. No way to make it zero, but five minutes of tossing things into the gazebo or truck bed (under the bed cover) could save more than enough damage to make it worthwhile. Also, make sure everyone is wearing shoes with good soles to protect them from glass from any blown-out windows we do get.

The bathrooms are on the second floor. Fallout tends to settle to the ground and on roofs (not stay suspended in mid-air), so that shouldn’t be a terrible place, especially since we’ll need it for cleaning, etc. as well as potable water. The Hawaii missile alert was a wake-up call for everyone, not just Hawaiians.

Cindy added:

This was (or should have been) an eye-opener for all of Hawaii and without a doubt most of our country!! It was insane, what people did do, as well as what they didn’t. They have absolutely no clue!!

TIP- If you want a game plan to get prepared quickly, this is it! These Quick Start steps will turbo-charge your preparedness and put you in a solid position to continue on.

From Betty:

Yeah well, help to come might not be fast enough. Look at Puerto Rico. They were not helped fast at all. It’s just like you’re on your own. So preparing is good.

From Cindy:

Help can only get there so fast, and rescuers can’t go into a hot zone. Puerto Rico is struggling to recover. They had their resources stretched from other huge disasters as well. Prepare yourselves for the worst, and hope for the best.

TIP: FEMA recommends that citizens have enough supplies on hand to get them through 72 hours after a disaster. We know a 72 hours bag is not going to be enough. I have put together a list of items from some of the top survival pros. Their recommendations are a great place start if you are new to prepping. If you are a long-time prepper, check if you have these items as part of your survival gear.

Erin shared:

First, bring needed items into the main building and prepare to shelter in place. We have window kits in each room to seal windows and doors. Get out radiation detectors and radios. Test radios with neighbors. take a shower and wash clothes, then start filling tubs with water and prepare to shut off water to the house to prevent contamination. Might be the last shower for a while. Pray. Those are the only things left, given time.

From Deb:

One lady said she didn’t know where her husband was at the time. That statement reminded me of Lisa’s tip to have a family meeting place should you become separated.

Debra shared:

We are prepared to shelter in place. In our area, one road east bottlenecks about 1 mile from my house, and a road north is 2 lanes out of town for miles before it hits a 4 lane highway or wider. Unless we got several hours advance warning and assuming nobody else did, there would be no way to evacuate – at least not safely. We’ve always planned to shelter in place.

Lynn added:

Do some reading, on The Survival Mom Blog, on how to be prepared to shelter in place.

Lee said:

Filling a bathtub with water is great IF there is no radiation associated with the missile. Keeping a two-week supply of Iosat potassium tablets for every member of your family would be an obvious thing to do as would enough mylar blankets and duct tape to cover the apertures of your house.

From Jim:

Seal the house. Hope to survive the initial blast. Let the dust settle and hit a shower as soon as you can once it is on the ground. Eat from cans and wash them well before opening.

Pray for decontamination and recovery teams to arrive before stores are gone. It’s a bad situation with not a lot of chances to get out and help effect rescues without some serious gear, training, and practice.

From Vickie:

Not only Hawaiians were scared… All of us in Hawaii said goodbye to our loved ones. I grabbed my prepped bag and extra cases of water and hunkered down. I was far away from the bases where I knew I would survive… But prepping for radiation is not easy. We waited. And waited. AND WAITED. For the blast or all clear for 38 mins.

James shared:

I have “To Go” survival kits for my Home and car. I would make sure my radio is turned to my local emergency broadcast channel. I’d monitor my TV and radio for further instructions. Until I got further instructions, I would shelter in place.

TIP- A time of sheltering in place is going to be stressful. Life as we have known it will have come to an end, at least temporarily. Prepare yourself to shelter in place without losing your mind! Sometimes you are at work when emergencies happen. Learn what you can do to build a workplace emergency kit.

From Corlia:

I agree that preparation is critical. My dad was a WWII marine who was sent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombs were dropped to “clean up.” I can only imagine how much more powerful today’s bombs are.

Jim C. shared:

As long as there are nuclear bombs civilians will need nuclear shelters. It’s not that it will happen, it is that it could happen and if it happen then the consequences are unbearable.

Lobby to reduce nuclear armament and build yourself a shelter. Community shelters are even better as there is no point in surviving alone. This time it was not a real alert, next time it could very well be.

If you’re not a Prepper maybe you should start prepping.

Holly added:

First, you need to take shelter from the exposure to the radiation, inside. Second, get away from glass. Third, lay down, perpendicular to the blast, feet closest and protect your face.

If you are close to ground zero, the buildings are going down, and I live near mountains so the shock wave would hit twice or more off the mountains. Without shelter, you’ve no protection from secondary fallout, as you’d need to make the shelter air-tight. That’s where the plastic comes in. If the building stands, you’d spend that half an hour, shutting off the AC and heat as you don’t want to bring in outside contaminated air. You’d tape off doors, vents etc. You’d need to live in that space, it could be weeks.

Then you would need water, food, composting toilet. There would likely be an EMP, so you’d need a radio protected in mylar bag, and that bag has to be protected from the blast. The radio may be a source of info about how your area was hit. The government would do a survey about the affected area. If you are on your own, you’d need a radiation detector and knowledge to do your own survey. You’d likely need to leave an area eventually, but EMP likely would’ve disabled your car.

We are near an Air Force base with Sandia National Lab that is involved with nuclear defense. If an enemy targets that, we are likely dead from the initial exposure or the loss of shelter. The base is just south and next to the Albuquerque airport. East, 4.5 hours outside Amarillo is another facility. 3 hours North is Los Alamos. It’s been nice knowing you.

Evacuation, if we survive, we’d go toward the northwest. And that’s a whole lot of dessert and few resources. A friend who lived in the four corners asked a government employee what his work trailer was for, confiscating caches on public land!

Joanna said:

1. Get wounds pressured with whatever is on you; even if it ripping off your bra to use the padding and straps. Cover your mouth with the other pad if optional. No blade? Use teeth.
2. Water source plan A,B,C. (Bottles, natural sources, arena-type buildings)
3. Decontaminate ears, eyes, and airways. Strip excess clothing. (Might be a good idea to consider that laser eye surgery)
4. Destination plan A,B,C. (Home, vacation camp, Trusted Circle Meet Place) You may need to hoof it awhile. Every pair of shoes you own should be walker ready.

From Beverly:

My very first concern would be water. Water is essential. Second would be First Aid supplies. Third would be sealing the room or space I am in. Fourth would be protecting food and putting it where it can’t be easily contaminated. Fifth would be setting up communication in a way that doesn’t require electricity or Internet. Sixth would be prepping for nuclear winter. Lots of blankets and warm clothing to cover up with.

Sue shared:

I have water storage containers I rotate out. I would make sure those were filled along with the stock tanks. I would get my canning supplies ready to bottle the freezer contents. All my camping gear would be brought inside. Then use heavy duty garbage bags and duct tape to seal the windows.

From Kim:

Personally, I think this may be a blessing in disguise. Hopefully, people will get better prepared now.

Sara shared:I think from reading my Hawaiian friends FB posts about this, they got the fright of their lives and now are seriously thinking about what to do.

Marlena added:

I agree. Hopefully, folks will see this as an opportunity to get educated and better prepared. Quit fussing about what went wrong with the alert system and ask yourself what you would do if this were real.

After all of the comments made by our readers, it is obvious that preparedness is key. It does not matter where you are in the process, there is always room for improvement.  I encourage you to consider the Hawaii missile alert, along with our End of the Year Prepper Evaluation to see what areas you need to work on for 2018.


4 thoughts on “Prepper To Prepper: The Hawaii Missile Alert, This Is Not A Drill”

  1. The problem is, to most people in Hawaii, this was another example of an inept government sending out false alarms. We get them about Tsunami’s a couple times a year… When the alert went off on my phone, it seemed disconcerting. Clearly, I wanted more information, so I turned on the local news TV channel. There was a football game on. I tried other channels. Regular programing. I tried CNN. They were complaining about the President.
    Then I walked out on my balcony. No military planes in the sky. I looked over toward Pearl Harbor through my binoculars. Everything seemed “business as usual”
    I think you had t be pretty dumb to not realize this was another false alarm. But then again, most people in Hawaii are pretty dumb.

  2. I just wanted to comment about an important thing that people need to remember (mistakes happen more often during stressful times): some of the advice given here have to be done AFTER the blast and the aftershock, not BEFORE them. You have to use the few minutes you have to get all the gear you can muster in such a short delay and run to the shelter you want to hide in.
    For example, if you make the mistake of covering the windows with plastic sheets BEFORE the blast, the windows are going to shatter and render the sheets, leaving them full of rips and thus unfit for their intended use (to keep radiation dust outside).
    The other thing we never have to forget is that these weapons also create a very powerful EMP blast that is going to fry all electronic devices that are not kept inside a Faraday cage (as that pulse has a much longer range than the rest of the nuke effects and, depending on its yield and the altitude of the blast, it can wipe out all the electronics from a big country with a single bomb). To have one of these cages is a very unlikely possibility (unless you’re at home at the time of the blast and you are a serious prepper) and nearly certain that your radio and mobile is going directly into the scrap heap (and even with the mobile in a cage, all transmission towers would be down). In that case, even a humble whistle or a mirror can do more for communication as we would be back to the stone age after such a calamity…

  3. This really made me think…I work in my local town, and could get home within 5 minutes, but would have to get the grandson from school (kindergartener)…either my place of work, or his school, would be better protection in this type of situation than my home (both large brick structures, with good sheltering areas, as opposed to my small stick built home with no real good sheltering area–no basement). But all our supplies are at home. DH works in the major city, at least 30 minutes away on a good day…We sure can’t expect any ‘event’ to happen conveniently for us…

    1. The Hawaii false alarm was indeed a wake-up call! Thank you for publishing all this useful information. I’ve always done food storage but there is so much more we need to have on hand. All those little things you need, like knives, compass, a RADIO! – someone mentioned thick soled shoes and of course water filtration. I recently found an awesome 72 Hour backpack I thought was a pretty good deal on (

      I was pretty impressed with the high quality water filter/bottle, and that it had food, first aid kit, compass, knife, fire starting kit and stove and cup.

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