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The Hawaii nuclear alert: how did people respond?

TitleThe Hawaii nuclear alert: how did people respond?
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsGissing, A, Avci, A
Conference NameAFAC18
Date Published09/2018
PublisherBushfire and Natural Hazards CRC
Conference LocationPerth

Nuclear tensions between the United States and North Korea have been extensively reported as both sides postured via threats and propaganda and North Korea conducted missile tests. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un had promised to decimate the US and was referred to by President Trump as mentally ‘deranged’. A story in the New York Times in late 2017 based upon consultations with leading security experts suggested that the chance of war breaking out was between 15 and 50 percent (Kristof, 29/11/2017). Given the threat of an attack, U.S. government officials encouraged residents to be prepared and commenced monthly drills to test warning systems.
Within this environment of heightened geopolitical tensions, a single text message was sent in error to people in Hawaii on the 13th of January at 8.07am, warning of an imminent ballistic missile strike.
The alert presents an opportunity to improve the understanding of how people react to warnings of extreme events. Risk Frontiers researchers conducted an analysis of media interviews with 207 individuals (respondents) who received the warnings to identify people’s attitudes and responses after the alert was received. Interview responses were coded, analysed and are reported in this paper.

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