Government transparency after the missile threat

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The following editorial was originally printed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday March 6, 2018 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

By: Zachary Espino
Kailua High School, Class of 2016
Waimanalo Neighborhood Board No. 32

Accountability and leadership. That’s what we demanded from the administration and our elected officials on the January 13th, 2018 false missile alarm scare. As a result of the event, it was evident that our state needed to be better prepared and ready for whatever comes our way. The lack of government responsiveness that resulted in a delay of relaying information to the people of Hawaii was unacceptable. Everyone was waiting on the government’s official statement on the false missile crisis. People wanted those behind the false missile alarm to be held accountable for what happened. Our government has a responsibility to be open and transparent, which was severely lacking during the aftermath of the January 13th event.

If there is anything I believe from the events of that Saturday morning, it is that the power of the message alert button needs to be removed from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, and placed in the hands of our armed services. They are better equipped with well-trained personnel that have prepared for any event resembling a missile threat. The button should not be in the hands of state employees, who are more susceptible to feeling wary or unsure, but with those who have the proper training and expertise. I have complete confidence that our military will be able to better serve our island community by being better managers and confident communicators.

The demand for a change in leadership and increased accountability is more evident today than ever before. The failure to respond and the lack of leadership from our state’s emergency management agency resulted in people believing it was their last day. The sudden event was a wakeup call as to how emergency preparedness efforts should be properly maintained and operated. Most notably, people demanded a quicker and more responsive approach to ensure the people were appropriately updated, especially in the instances where the information was already known.

Moving forward, this event serves as a general reminder for us all. People were left wondering how they could have been better prepared. Not only is the proper information important, but everyone needs to have the adequate tools and resources. We should start by ensuring there are more efforts towards informing communities about disaster plans for events in a missile or natural disaster. There should be collaborations between local, state, and federal levels of government to educate more people in our communities. There should be investments in making sure the proper testing and training of emergency equipment and personnel is done. There are so many things that can be done and these strides to invest more time and effort is of utmost importance.

We all have a part in making sure that we are prepared for events like the one on January 13th. We live in very scary times, where we have to question our safety and security, and we have to do all we can to make sure that we can offer a safer and more secure future for the generations to come.