Hawaii has become the first US state to prepare its citizens for a potential missile attack from North Korea.

The state is rolling out an education campaign to inform the public about how they should act in the unlikely event that a ballistic missile strikes the island.

Hawaii lawmakers have been calling on emergency management officials to update plans dating back to the Cold War on how to cope with a nuclear attack ever since North Korea carried out its first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last month.

The state's Emergency Management Agency (EMA) believes preparations for a potential attack cannot wait any longer.

"We do not want to cause any undue stress for the public ... but there is clear evidence that North Korea is trying to develop ballistic missiles that could conceivably one day reach our state," the EMA said in a statement.

Starting in November, the EMA will begin carrying out monthly tests of an 'attack warning' siren which has not been used since the end of the Cold War in the 1980s. When the siren sounds, people are encouraged to "get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned."

Information brochures will be distributed to members of the public in upcoming months to educate them about the new siren and how to react to it. "If they're not educated, they could actually be frightened by it," EMA Executive Director Toby Clairmont said.

He stressed that people should react immediately when they hear the siren as a missile could land in 15 or 20 minutes after launching.

"You will not have time to pick up your family and go to a shelter and all that kind of stuff. ... It has to be automatic," Clairmont said.

Charlene Chan, director of communications for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, described the possibility of an attack as "remote" and raised concerns that the safety measures would deter tourists from visiting Hawaii.

"Everyone's safety in Hawaii is always our top priority ... [but] this could lead to travelers and groups staying away from Hawaii," Chan told the Honolulu Star Advertiser. "The effect of such a downturn would ultimately be felt by residents who rely on tourism's success for their livelihood."