Hawaii uni tells campus what to do in nuclear attack

WASHINGTON • Many schools go to great lengths these days to ensure their campus communities are ready for any emergency, such as a hurricane, a blizzard or, worse, an active shooter.

The University of Hawaii (UH) took that spirit of preparedness a step further last week with an e-mail to students and staff that began with the subject, "In the event of a nuclear attack".

The e-mail from the Aloha State's university system went to 50,000 students and 10,000 employees last Monday. It made reference to growing tensions between the United States and North Korea over the latter's nuclear-weapons ambitions.

"In the light of concerns about North Korea missile tests, state and federal agencies are providing information about nuclear threats and what to do in the unlikely event of a nuclear attack and radiation emergency," the e-mail said.

"For this type of event, the 10 campuses of the University of Hawaii will rely on the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency siren system and follow agency instructions on 'sheltering-in-place'."

The Hawaiian Islands lie about 7,400km south-east of North Korea, in the Pacific Ocean, raising the question of whether the island state could someday be a target of a North Korean missile strike.

The e-mail drew immediate and widespread notice.

Soon after he sent it, a university communications official wished he could take it back. "I take full responsibility for it," Mr Daniel Meisenzahl said last Tuesday. "It was a mistake on my part."

Mr Meisenzahl said it is routine for the university to send out precautionary e-mail about hurricane season, tsunami warnings and the like.

Generally, the e-mail provides a link for members of the community to sign up for UH Alerts, an electronic notification system.

As it happened, Mr Meisenzahl said, university officials have been getting questions for the past few months about a possible North Korean nuclear threat. So they wanted to send a message that would be responsive.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Hawaii uni tells campus what to do in nuclear attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe