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Showing posts from April, 2007

Veteran Big Island Reporter Rips State Civil Defense Chief for “Failure To Communicate”

While we await updates on the University of Hawaii’s effort to construct a workable emergency communications program, we’ll turn to an unexpected source of inspiration.

Hawaii residents with even a modicum of public affairs awareness will recognize Hugh Clark as the long-time (as in, decades-long) Honolulu Advertiser reporter/editor/bureau chief on the Big Island. During his long tenure as the Advertiser’s “man on Hawaii,” Hugh covered every imaginable natural and man-made disaster – hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions and more.

You name it, Hugh Clark was there – which is why his letter to State Civil Defense chief Major General Robert Lee has so much weight. Hugh was moved to write his letter after reading General Lee’s commentary in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that attacked CHORE for questioning State Civil Defense’s response to the October 15th earthquakes.

Here’s Hugh’s letter to General Lee, printed with his permission and cleaned up only for the occasi…

UH Official Agrees KTUH May Be Useful Link to Campus Community During Emergencies

CHORE has talked with Dr. Francisco Hernandez, vice chancellor for students at UH-Manoa, who was quoted in the Honolulu Advertiser story this week on campus emergency communications planning.

KTUH’s possible role as an information channel during a campus crisis wasn’t mentioned in that story or any other, as we noted on Wednesday.

We referred Hernandez to Wednesday’s post and our hope that “the ultimate PA system” – KTUH – will be integrated in the UH emergency communications plan. He said the point was well taken and that he’d begin discussions with KTUH’s management. We look forward to updated media stories and future discussions with Dr. Hernandez on his progress.

That’s the kind of positive response we love to see. It certainly feels better than being attacked by an agency you’re trying to help! For a comparison, check out our March 1st post: General Lee Launches Counter-Offensive at CHORE; We Respond with Defense-in-Depth

Maybe UH will be open to meeting with citizens -- especia…

UH Officials, Students May Not Be on Same Page about Campus’s Emergency Readiness; KTUH Not Yet Mentioned as Part of Communications Plan

University of Hawaii officials say they’re confident they can quickly alert the student body during an on-campus emergency, according to a Honolulu Advertiser story today.

CHORE hopes they’re right, but as we cautioned yesterday, over-confidence can be a dangerous thing. The Advertiser asked some UH students what they think about their campus’s readiness. Here are two responses:

"I don't know that we would be able to get the word out," said fine arts senior Amy Craig, a resident adviser at an on-campus dorm. "I'm concerned about the lack of access to students after an emergency. There is no comprehensive plan in place."

"The school is definitely not prepared," said Michele Messina, a junior in psychology and dorm resident. "There's no procedure. We can't lock down."

Two students don’t represent an entire student body, but if any students feel this way, UH officials have reason to wonder about the gap between their own confident att…

VT Tragedy Spurs Response Review Here; Multiple Channel Approach Will Improve Alert

Education officials throughout the country are analyzing their emergency response procedures in the aftermath of yesterday’s mass slaughter at Virginia Tech. Both the Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin take on the issue in stories today.

In the Star-Bulletin story headlined "UH touts e-mail, phone and PA warnings", a University of Hawaii spokesman describes the institution’s current thinking:

During an emergency, UH administrators can notify faculty, staff and students on campus through email, telephone and even through the broadcast news media (the spokesman said). If the chancellor decides there is a need to notify people on campus that there is still a danger, the most immediate means of alerting them would be through e-mail.

Without giving a source, the Advertiser story notes the same mindset:

UH-Manoa does not have a public address system, and students and staff would be notified of a crisis by e-mail and telephone calls.

CHORE’s mission since its inception aft…

Hawaii Citizens, You’ve Made a Difference; New Emergency Protocols Respond to Complaints

Maybe the communications problems on Earthquake Sunday were so obvious even a caveman could solve them, but we think grassroots activism had something to do with the changes reported in today’s Honolulu Advertiser (“Alert will come, tsunami or not”).

The paper’s story on emergency communications and preparedness includes State Civil Defense’s repudiation of its own mindset in October that telling the public no tsunami had been generated could have produced panic and confusion.

That’s exactly what State Civil Defense thought would happen, as reported in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on October 18th. CHORE took issue with that assertion the same day (“Common Sense Says Our People Won’t Panic”).

Today’s Advertiser story goes right down the list of improvements we citizens have advocated – television “crawls” and radio station announcements after large quakes when no tsunami has been generated; quicker response using the Emergency Alert System; more emergency generators to keep broadcasters on…

HECO Says No More Quake-Caused Outages; Communication Failures Still Not Discussed

Today’s Honolulu Advertiser front-pages Hawaiian Electric’s bold assurance that earthquake-caused massive power outages are a thing of the past (“Quake outage won’t recur, HECO says”).

The story’s sidebar lists three technical problems (Problem 1, Problem 2, etc.) that address the equipment and procedural failures that produced the prolonged blackout on October 15th.

But Problem 4 is missing from the list – the company’s failure to communicate effectively with the public until well into the outage. Unless we’ve missed it, HECO has yet to explain what it has done to fix Problem 4, which has been CHORE's focus all along.

A host of communications failures that day – not just by HECO but at State Civil Defense and many broadcast outlets – made Earthquake Sunday worse for most people. Frustration can turn to anger when the public is left in information limbo.

HECO’s reluctance to discuss these matters is puzzling. Company officials brushed off questions about the communications problems …

Rename the PTWC To Be Accurate; Call It the ‘United States Tsunami Warning Center’

(This is a "two-blog" post; it’s also found today at our sister blog, Tsunami Lessons.)

Yet another tsunami has killed Pacific islanders, but at least America was well informed about the status of the threat. “The system worked,” said a Hawaii Civil Defense official in praise of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center’s network of buoys and seismographs.

Can it truly be said “the system worked” when people die? Are we so concerned about our own safety that we applaud a system that was incapable of warning unsuspecting islanders that they were in imminent danger of losing their lives?

Wanted: A Vision

How appropriate to quote Solomon in Proverbs as we look for lessons in the Solomon Islands tsunami:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

What might the vision be for a tsunami warning network that actually saves lives? The current version demonstrably doesn’t do that. More than 230,000 people died in the December 2004 tsunami; at least 30 died in the Solomons, and the toll is ri…

Article Raps Public for its Poor Tsunami Awareness, but Officials' Reaction Is Critical

Today’s second part of the Star-Bulletin’s series on tsunami and emergency preparation lays a lot of blame on the public for its apparent collective ignorance on what to do during a major earthquake and tsunami event.

And that’s undoubtedly true. People are people, and changing public perceptions is going to take time. Not everyone will leave the water when the warning sirens begin to wail.

What CHORE wants to keep in focus is the requirement for the paid professionals to react flawlessly during the next crisis – unlike their response on October 15th.

A tsunami expert opines that “thousands would have been killed if the Oct. 15 Big Island earthquakes had triggered a tsunami, because people in low-lying areas who felt the ground shake did not move to higher ground.”

Failures All Around

The hypothetical death toll likely would have been boosted by the failure of several key links in the communications chain on Earthquake Sunday due to the power blackout, the lack of emergency generators at…

PTWC Touts Tech as ‘Tsunami Month’ Begins; Emergency Siren ‘Gap Areas’ Get Second Look

[Today’s post at Tsunami Lessons, our companion blog, is duplicated here at CHORE this morning.]
* * * * *
"One goal of the improved instruments is to avoid having too many warnings, which erodes confidence in the system, McCreery said. 'The gap is really trying to keep the public prepared to do the right thing when the situation occurs.'"

That paragraph is the final one in a Honolulu Star-Bulletin story today on new instruments installed at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The irony should be obvious to anyone familiar with the complete absence of a useful warning after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. (New visitors to Tsunami Lessons might want to start reading on this subject at our first post on January 2, 2005, "No Tsunami Warning -- Why?")

Tomorrow's second part of this two-part series is titled "Getting the public to respond to tsunamis" -- potentially another irony-laden angle in light of the 2004 tsunami warning failure.