This is NOT an Emergency

Yesterday morning at the butt-crack of dawn I was driving to work in my van, headed west  on Kapiolani Boulevard, and passing the Ala Wai Boat House on my left, when the Civil Defense sirens started to wail. I was listening to NPR1, the local public radio station, and the personality wasn’t mentioning anything. Instead, I was listening to news about the grim situation in Syria. Are we being attacked?

The radio dial is unfamiliar territory for me. I have no idea how to get to any radio stations. I was alone. My carpooling friend, Carrie, is very familiar with the radio, and I guess I should ask her to help me program my buttons. It made me ill when I pressed the AM dial and all I got was national and very conservative talk radio. No local updates or information.


It’s an emergency. I’m driving to work. Should I turn around and go home? Are my kids OK? Is John awake yet? If a tsunami is coming, then it would be hours, right? Unless it’s in  the Molokai Channel or on the Big Island. Then maybe we wouldn’t have all that much time. If I’m going to die, can I be with my family? kthnxbye?

Once I parked on Elm, I hit up Facebook. Responses came right away:

“System malfunction.”

And it’s being investigated. Will we ever find out what happened? Ever?

You know, it isn’t funny. As I was driving along while the sirens were going off, I felt completely helpless, out of control, unable to decide what I should do. It really drove home how terrible it is not to have a plan in case of an emergency. When was the last time you were told to have a plan? When you were in school? I remember when Kid1&2 would get to visit the local fire station for a preschool field trip. For about a month, Kid1 would insist on a plan of escape in case of fire. She wanted us all to practice “stop, drop, and roll.” All I did was roll my eyes.

We in Hawaii have been very lucky for a very long time. Before the sirens go off for a real reason, I’m going to discuss what we should do as a family. What if we’re apart? What if we’re at work, and the girls are at school? How do we reconnect? What if the roads are closed and we’re all stranded in different places? How are the home supplies? What about the cats? Hurricane cables? So much stuff to think about.

Preparation keeps us calm and helps us think straight. While we cannot be sure the government’s sirens are wailing with purpose or due to some kind of prank or malfunction (is a malfunction acceptable?), the least we can do is prepare for the worst and face disaster with relative calm.

Do you ever look at a picture from an area in conflict, say Syria, Afghanistan, Greece or Egypt, and wonder about the people you see? How they are dealing with this trauma? What would you do if that were you?