Roosters were crowing as sunlight grew brighter in the lush jungle of Pupukea. I was about to head down to Waimea Bay to watch an XXL north swell roll in a few mountains when, just after 8 am, my phone buzzed with an emergency alert. Must be a high surf warning, I thought. Nope.
BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
I had no idea what to do. I texted a few people, including one of my neighbors on the acre of land we live on with the family of newest World Junior Champion Finn McGill, a patch of paradise locally called McGillville. “Come up going into container,” was the cryptic text I got back.
Matriarch Lindsay McGill and former QS competitor Dax McGill, fresh home to celebrate her brother’s win, were setting up a water filter inside the giant shipping container used for storage at the top of the property. The neighbor I texted was there with slices of pineapple and I showed up with a quart of coffee. A family of five (two parents, two sons under age 10, and a screaming 2-year-old girl) came over from next door, along with two visitors from New York City who were staying in their guest house. Their small dog played with the McGill’s puppy inside the container as the toddler’s screams bounced off the metal walls like an air horn. The older son, gripped with anxiety, repeatedly asked, “Are we gonna die?” Tears were in everyone’s eyes as we hovered on the edge of calm.
We formed a daisy chain and made space by emptying the container of buckets of paint and any dangerous projectiles like loose wood and nails. Our only light was from two cell phones and our food supplies consisted of the pineapple slices, my meager coffee offering, half a loaf of bread, and hummus. Before coming to the container, the scene next door had been complete chaos. The parents literally collided in an effort to get the kids to safety. The guests were leaping into and out of cars, wondering if we should go somewhere else. We had already spent longer than it would take a missile to get to us (15 minutes, in case you were wondering) just prepping the shelter. Then, as two more McGillville residents were sprinting to the container with their dog, it was all over.
“I am relieved….but I am very angry,” said the father from next door of the false alert. The details of how such a blunder could happen are still being investigated, but the truth lay bare: If we’d actually had to stay inside that container for two weeks surviving nuclear fallout, we would not have been okay. We were not ready. No one was.
So, what should we do?
1. Know where to go, and prep your shelter.
Figure out how the best shelter you have access to and how you’ll get there. Plan a backup shelter or two working with your neighbors and loved ones. When you’ve determined WHERE your shelter will be, make sure it’s PREPPED with water filtration, first aid kit, canned and dried food reserves, lighting, and a sanitary toilet option in case you can’t go outside. Clean your shelter and make sure nothing can fall if it get’s rocked by a shock to the ground. Get a supply of gas for cars and keep it in the shelter.
2. Get your plan locked down.
Once you have a place to go that’s stocked, know your plan inside and out. Who’s grabbing what, who’s contacting who, all the tiny details so in those panic-stricken 15 minutes your crew operates like a well-oiled machine. Grab as many large containers of tap water as possible before entering the shelter, and take all your existing food to add to the emergency stock. Keep your passports/IDs, wallet, important papers, and car keys in the same easily-accessible place.
3. Be prepared to live off the land.
If you have a fishing pole, fruit picker, or bow hunting equipment, make sure to keep them in the shelter when you’re not using them. These will come in handy if, when cleared to leave the shelter, we need to live off the land for a while. If you’re a novice hunter, brush up on how to field dress a pig or fish and make sure you have all the appropriate equipment. Also, a wise plan would be to invest in solar panels that can charge your phone — I personally use two small Goal Zero Nomad panels that are the size of a book when closed, and I stand by those.
Visiting Hawaii or just like to stay ready at all times? Here’s Mama McGill’s time-tested and years-perfected travel emergency kit so you can survive hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and yes, even ballistic missiles when you’re away from home:
4. Have an emergency kit. This is Mama McGill’s Basic Travel Emergency Kit, for reference:
⁃ Mophie or other charging station
⁃ Ppersonal water filter (I have a Nakii)
⁃ Allergy pills
⁃ Hydration pills
⁃ Ppain relief
⁃ Benadryl gel for topical relief
⁃ Wound kit (band-aids, ointment, gauze, wrap)
⁃ Hand sanitizer
⁃ Dr. Bronner’s soap
⁃ Something to make you poop
⁃ Something to stop your poop. Someone always needs one of these! (Immodium)
⁃ 2x emergency blanket
⁃ Charcoal pills
⁃ Epsom salt (great for wounds/staph prevention in tropical areas)
⁃ Deep blue roll on by doterra.
⁃ And, of course, dream drops from Spice
Now that you’re set with a stocked emergency shelter and a solid plan with your crew, all you have to do now is RESPOND! It’s better to go full-response on a false alarm than no response on the real thing — take it seriously, embrace your power to save yourself and help others, and act.