IS THE DESTRUCTION OF HUMANS.”
If you read last week’s article on Starfish Prime, chances are you were already aware of the Hawaii false alarm that went out in the early morning hours Saturday, January 13, 2018. If you didn’t get a chance to read that article, you can find the link for it at the bottom of this article.
Hawaiians woke up to this message on their cell phones, delivered by their state’s emergency mobile alert system:
This alert was “revoked” 38 minutes later. Despite officials’ attempts to notify the public on social media of their mistake, they were unable to send a mobile alert communicating their correction.
How did this happen?
According to Richard Rapoza, spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HEMA), which sent out the false alarm, “Someone clicked the wrong thing on the computer.”
It almost sounds too simple to be true.
Perhaps Rapoza does not want to expose his agency’s shortcomings by adding detail. On the other hand, what if it was just as simple as a mistaken click of a mouse?
How many times have you clicked the wrong thing on your computer? Or hit send on an email by accident? I know I do - daily.
Obviously, the “wrong clicks” you and I take do not have potentially catastrophic consequences, so we don’t worry about them too much.
This Gets Worse.
Only 3 days later, another “false alarm” was issued in Japan, this time by broadcast media – not government emergency management. In this era of “fake news” and extremely fast pace of information, this presents another new challenge.
The first thing that these false alarms teach us is that, even in situations with high consequences, mistakes do happen. Rarely – but they do happen. Especially in the same week. It’s a definite concern for them to happen in the same week.
In fact, with the world once again on a “Cold War footing,” it’s important to note that this is not the first time mistakes been made where nuclear disaster could have precipitated.
These Were All Mistakes
In 1960, radar in Thule, Greenland, mistakenly interpreted the rising moon as a Soviet attack. Not human error, but instrumentation error (instruments designed by humans, granted).
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, crew members aboard the Soviet Submarine B-59 believed nuclear war had begun and debated launching a nuclear attack. They had gone too deep to receive radio transmissions and were left to guess what the world was like above the surface. One of the senior officers decided not to launch and instead surfaced the submarine, then headed back to Moscow.
Also during the height of the Cuban Crisis, a guard at a base in Minnesota saw an intruder climbing the fence. Believing the intruder to be Soviet, he shot at the figure, triggering sabotage alarms that warned all nearby bases. One of the bases had an alarm system that was wired incorrectly, ordering nuclear fighters to takeoff rather than sounding a warning. The guards at the first base realized the intruder was actually a black bear. In order to call back the nuclear fighters at the other base, a staff member had to chase down the planes in a truck (the base had no control tower), narrowly avoiding their launch.
On November 9, 1979, North American Aerospace Defense computers were displaying video of a large-scale Soviet attack, depicting launches from silos and subs off the west coast -exactly as military officials had feared. Bomber crews prepared for takeoff and interceptors took off. Investigators later discovered that a technician was playing a tape that contained a training exercise simulating the attack.
In 2007, six nuclear cruise missiles were mistakenly loaded onto a B-52 bomber and flown across the United States. Crew members should have verified the missiles were unarmed, but no one followed protocol. Finally, a maintenance crew discovered that the weapons were live 36 hours later.
One of the most notable near misses that brought us to the brink of war came in September 1983. At the beginning of that month, the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007. The passenger flight had flown into Soviet airspace, failed to respond to communications and was taken down. 269 people onboard were killed, including a U.S. Congressman and many other Americans.
Soviet-American tensions were already high, and this escalated them to a point nearing the tensions felt in the Cuban Missile Crisis more than twenty years earlier.
Later that month, in a bunker near Moscow, Stanislav Petrov was on duty. Shortly after midnight during his shift, the bunker’s computers reported an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was heading for the USSR from the U.S. Shortly after, the computer detected four more missiles.
However, the whole time, Petrov kept a cool head. He knew that the satellite system that reported the missiles had proven unreliable in the past. Further, his training led him to conclude that any U.S. first strike would be massive, not limited to only five missiles.
When this event was finally made public in the 1990s, Petrov was declared “The Man Who Saved the World.” They made a movie with the same title a few years ago. However, in the immediate aftermath, Petrov was crushed by the Kremlin bureaucracy. He took “early retirement” and eventually had a nervous breakdown.
What do all these events teach us?
This is by no means a comprehensive list of mistakes, errors, and failures that have brought us very close to nuclear war. We know of as many as two dozen such events. I’m sure many more have been kept under wraps.
First, we must always remember that human error is unavoidable.
Second, just as we are fallible, so too is the technology we’ve created.
The nuclear threat has always presented an existential crisis. This has two meanings.
- The first is simple, nuclear weapons have the capability of wiping mankind out of existence.
- The second meaning of this existential crisis is that the nuclear threat forces us to define what our life as humans really means. It’s deep, which is why most of us turn to religion to define it. The simplest prescription that faith provides for the nuclear threat? Do what you can to prepare, protect and provide. Leave the rest to God.
Finally, it’s important to consider all alarms to be real. In a nuclear situation, time is critical. If you shelter and then get the all clear, you’re no worse for wear. The opposite? Not good.
While we hope that nuclear tensions with North Korea may abate before and during the Winter Olympics in South Korea, it’s anybody’s guess as to what happens after.
The Associated Press reports that:
"Analysts say tensions could flare again after the Olympics, with U.S. and South Korean troops carrying out their delayed drills and North Korea likely responding with new weapons tests."
Some experts believe that North Korea’s olive branch may be a strategic move to drive a wedge between the South and the United States.
While these tensions simmer, then boil, then simmer, the threat of human error is always looming.
This is why we must adhere to our preparedness planning and self-reliant lifestyles strictly in 2018 – now more than ever.
As we shared a few weeks back:
If you prepare for a disaster, that disaster will never happen. Because if that disaster occurs, it will only be an inconvenience to you, but a disaster to those who haven’t prepared.
If you need help planning your next step, our preparedness advisors are standing by. Our number is 866.229.0927 9a-9p EST Mon-Sat.
Hope this info finds you well and helps you think as you make the next steps toward total self-reliance.
Have a great weekend and stay alert, friends!
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply