The residents of Japan's Hokkaido province were woken by blaring sirens and buzzing phones around 6 a.m. Tuesday morning after North Korea launched a missile over the island.
The alarms were practically impossible to miss, but the citywide noise was a sort of controlled chaos pre-planned by the Japanese government. With North Korea increasing its provocative behavior over the last several months, Japanese officials put a system of warning mechanisms in place should the worst-case scenario occur.
"It happened yesterday morning at about six in the morning, then an alarm sounded on my smartphone alerting me of the missile that crossed over Hokkaido," Joemark Narsico, a Filipino Ph.D. student living in Hakodate, told Circa in an interview on Tuesday. "Seconds after the alarm on my phone, there was a loud speaker outside the community saying that a missile passed over and that we should be careful and take cover and stay away from falling objects coming from the missile."
Fortunately, the missile cleared Japanese territory and broke apart over the Pacific ocean. No injuries associated with the launch were reported in Japan.
Speaker, email and phone alerts were distributed via a warning system know as J-Alert, an initiative created by the Japanese government in order to warn residents of potential security threats across the country. Japanese officials activated J-Alert shortly after the launch was confirmed, and it sounded warnings across more than a dozen regions near the missile's flight path.
"A missile has been fired from the West Coast of North Korea in the direction of Tohoku region," said the government warning. "Please take refuge in a solid building or below ground."
The warning system worked, according to Narsico, who noted that he did not see anyone outside as the alarms were sounding.
"After the alarm, I think people didn't even panic," he added. "There was some concern, of course... this issue has been running for about two months. In fact, the government released several infomercials about what to do in the even of a missile attack... but after the incident, on the afternoon, everything went back to normal, everything was business as usual."
In addition to civil warnings, the Japanese government has taken steps to protect the country militarily. Aegis, a state of the art missile interceptor system, is already deployed on Japanese, South Korean and U.S. bases in the region. There are also several Patriot missile interceptor batteries stationed in the country.
Tensions with North Korea may be high, but Narsico isn't worried.
"At this point, I think personally, I don't have to be worried about it," Narisco said. "Because if it will happen, it will happen, no one can stop it. But I think that the government of Japan is doing its best to solve the crisis and at least to minimize whatever damage... this issue [will] cause."