Hawaii’s False Alarm Missile Threat Highlights Use of Ham Radio | NBC Left Field
Radio hobbyists like these guys could
potentially save our lives in the event of a nuclear attack or any disaster,
really. It turns out there’s a lot of them in Hawaii and we went to spend some
time with them. And then this happened. “A missile may impact on land or sea within
minutes. If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. If you
are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building.”
Hey, you guys there? “This is not a drill.” There was a false alarm, nuclear missile. It’s insane! Just go turn on the TV, bye! “Joining us now,
MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff. He is at Waikiki Beach.” I have to tell you,
David, we have been here the last couple of days shooting a story. The sirens did
not go off, but it does sound like those push alerts came through to many
people’s phones. And the story we’re actually doing here for NBC Left Field
is, in the case of an electromagnetic pulse from a blast, 90 percent of people may
be without communication and ham radio is actually one of the ways that you’ll
be able to hear what’s happening because, again, I was in that room yesterday,
inside a bunker, inside the Diamond Head Crater here on… Yeah. We were in Hawaii
during that false alarm. So if this or any big emergency actually happens, when
our cellphones don’t work, the internet goes down, and all else fails, these guys
are the communication link. And they assist a lot of major groups, like
Hawaii’s Department of Emergency Management, which isn’t just preparing
for natural disasters anymore. We plan all hazards. After the false
alarm, Miyagi resigned, but his message remains.
Now, this North Korean missile thing is unlikely, but it’s an elephant in the
room, we can’t ignore it. It all goes down in here? It all goes down in here. It’s
only 20 minutes from the time of launch to impact. So, God forbid, the call ever
came in that a nuclear missile is heading this way, it’s gonna come through
this one right here? Yes. Holy mackerel! Yeah, what deja-vu, man, for
those of us who grew up in the Cold War. You have about a minute or two to authenticate
and make a decision to activate the statewide siren system. Hawaii’s been
testing this since late last year, and it was last used during the Cold War. The
models show maybe 10 percent, 20 percent casualties. What about the other 80 percent? Smartphones, and
iPads, and all that–we have to accept the fact that these might not be working
after a disaster. Yeah, I can see, thank you. Ham radio’s capability during an
emergency is critical. And the ultimate irony is, it’s the technology that’s probably been around
the longest. That’s it. Ok, thank you very much for the signal report. AH6QO
clear. Amateur radio works because it’s radio to radio. No middleman. Modern-day technology is extremely complex and it has points of failure. If the cell
phone tower goes down or just the power goes off, there’s no cell phone. All I need is a radio, a power source,
transmission line up to the antenna, and I’m on the air. While this seems like a kind of
antiquated, maybe nerdy thing to do, this is the foundation from which
today’s communication systems stem. So your cell phone? It’s actually got a lot
of radios in it. You just can’t control them. But the thing is, with these, you can.
What we have are what we call directional antennas. So we have a wire right over your head here. From Olomana Gardens you’re gonna hit Chicago, New York. Yeah.
Every night. Last night, we’re talking to London. Without satellite dishes?
Nothing. Nothing but a piece of wire. I’m gonna show you this. Glenn, show me your hat! Tell me if we got the right material
here. So in the event an earthquake in Los Angeles, NBC News supplies us with
these radios. You take this and we plug it into my computer. Yeah. We program all
of our local repeaters. You hit my repeater, you can call California, you can call anywhere in the world. Over a century ago, while radio itself
was emerging as a commercial form of communication, ham or amateur radio was
emerging as a hobby. Amateur comes from “ama” for “the love of.” We do it for love. We
don’t get paid anything by anybody, it is total public service. Being a ham
operator, you’re joining this new extended family. But the FCC license us
and we have rules. It’s not a rubber ducky, no motor caravan kind of thing.
Interest over the decades hasn’t waned. But here’s the key: of all these hams,
there’s a sector that is especially devoted to emergency communications.
It’s called EMCOMM. One minute you can be Clark Kent, so to speak, talking to
somebody around the other side of the world, then bang! When there’s a disaster,
you switch to EMCOMM mode. There’s a whole room at the Department of Emergency
Management for the hams who form our emergency Reserve Corps and emergency.
Carter is a trainer for FEMA and Ron is a coordinator for our state RACES, and
Clem is a former HIEMA employee, as well as an elite amateur.
Every morning and every afternoon, they practice talking to each other.
What we’re really practicing for is society collapsing. That’s a sick feeling, to be
disconnected. Are you worried about an attack from North Korea? Oh yeah! Yeah. So
I got myself a 20-foot mass container. I could run, and jump in, and slam the doors
on it. We’re a curious lot, not only being strange and called geeks etc., and we
understand that. You know, when I’m out with my wife, I try not to wear too many
radios on my belt–otherwise she doesn’t want to walk with me. You get a whole
bunch of guys from around the world talking on the same frequency. Chatting among themselves.
Hello, CQ, anyone copy, over? It doesn’t get much better than that. That’s the thrill
of it. It’s the original social media. Roger that, Frank, thank you very much, we
hope to talk to you again later. 73 is Aloha from Hawaii on the North Shore
with the pounding surf down below. Is there anybody else? You know, you got to
think: you’re a retired person–I’m a retired merchant marine captain–you’re
68 years old living in a farm out in Hawaii.
You kind of get disconnected. And this way keeps you in touch.
It’s a great family out there. The emergency radio thing gives a great
purpose. The radio guy on the Titanic, tapping out as the ship was going down, still
tapping. One little voice can be important. You can help save the world. Watch more Left Field stories, including
this video on how Japan prepares for a missile attack.