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Showing posts from August, 2007

1982 Video Recalls Broadcast Failures During Hurricane Iwa -- a Lesson Yet To Be Learned?

With the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Iwa’s pass through the islands just three months away, it’s useful to recall the lessons we should have learned during one of Hawaii’s biggest emergencies in its 48 years of statehood. One lesson was the need to strengthen the communications network.

We’ve just had the treat of watching a compilation of Honolulu television stations' newscasts that were dominated by Hurricane Iwa coverage on November 23 and 24, 1982. (Honolulu resident AJ McWhorter transferred the newscasts from their old formats -- e.g., Beta tapes -- to DVD; his hobby has become a business, as described in this Honolulu Star-Bulletin story. AJ wants to find old KGMB-TV tapes, including newscasts from the Bob Sevey era and the Crossfire public affairs show that aired “live” on Sunday afternoons in the mid-70s; if you can help him, write to AJ at ajm@hawaii.rr.com.)

Remembering the 1982 Breakdown

Long-time Hawaii residents will recall the communications debacle after Iwa smash…

CCRC Sets Minimalist Agenda for 9/27 Meeting

Maybe you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you often can judge a meeting by its agenda. Rule of thumb: The fewer details in the agenda, the less outside input is desired. That may be what's happening with the next meeting of the Comprehensive Communications Review Committee.

You’ll recall that this committee was established after the October 15th earthquakes to review emergency communications preparedness and recommend improvements in how to keep our citizens safe and informed in emergencies. The issue, after all, is public safety.

Here’s the agenda for the September 27th meeting:

Welcome

Group discussion on status of final committee recommendations and implementation status of those recommendations (by each organization).

Wrap-up

Not much transparency, but at least the CCRC is consistent; transparency hasn’t been much of a consideration for the group, as CHORE has reported since its creation in October. The CCRC has not held public meetings and has had virtually no public …

Could Quake Info Have Been Faster? Initial Assessment Suggests Slow Website Response

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center gets points for updating its website to be more user friendly. The graphics are attractive (if spotty at times), and the running log of outgoing messages is easy to find.

Nevertheless, yesterday’s quake was yet another opportunity to improve on existing procedures. The job’s never done, right? As the Oahu Civil Defense administrator said a couple days ago, “Every time we pull out the contingency plan, we find something and say, ‘Why didn’t we think of that last time?’ And we update the contingency plan.”

CHORE attempted to keep a real-time log of the PTWC’s quake-related messages following yesterday’s earthquake. We may have missed some emails from the PTWC, and we’ve gone back to its site see what was there and sign up for various alerts, just to be sure we’re on the list.

That said, our conclusion is that the Center’s website lagged in posting its outgoing bulletins and advisories by up to an hour or more. We can’t be positive, but that’s our con…

7.9 Peru Quake Prompts PTWC Messages; Hawaii Put on Alert, then Gets the All-Clear

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued several emails and posted alerts on its website this afternoon. One email said the major earthquake just off Peru’s coast did indeed trigger a tsunami according to sea level gauges, and an “Expanded Regional Warning" was issued for Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and other nations up the Pacific coast.

The PTWC then issued a “Tsunami Advisory” specifically for Civil Defense agencies in Hawaii saying: AN EVALUATION OF THE PACIFIC WIDE TSUNAMI THREAT IS UNDERWAY AND THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT HAWAII COULD BE ELEVATED TO A WATCH OR WARNING STATUS. IF TSUNAMI WAVES IMPACT HAWAII THEIR ESTIMATED EARLIEST ARRIVAL TIME IS 0214 AM HST THU 16 AUG 2007 That later was canceled, as shown in this timeline.

Quake-Related Message Sequence:

1:40 p.m. HST – a shallow earthquake hits off the Peru coast.
1:53 p.m. HST -- PTWC issues Information Bulletin, says earthquake measured 7.5 magnitude and that quakes this size "sometimes generate local tsunamis…

As Flossie Slips Away, Questions Remain on Broadcasters’ Ability to Function in a Crisis

Except for heightened readiness on the Big Island, the state didn’t have its emergency communications apparatus tested much by Hurricane Flossie. No major power outages were reported, and we therefore don’t know whether our broadcast industry has upgraded its capability to remain on the air during blackouts – a test many stations failed last October after the earthquakes.

The State’s Comprehensive Communications Review Committee, which was formed to examine communications failures on Earthquake Sunday and recommend improvements, has been silent for months. The logical conclusion is that it’s doing nothing, and citizens haven’t been told about emergency communications enhancements that will meet our needs during future crises.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s TheBuzz column today does some of the CCRC’s work for it by reporting on upgrades to Big Island radio stations. It’s good to see that New West Broadcasting Corp. now has backup generation installed for its three Hilo radio stations. …

Advice to Emergency Communicators: Please Concentrate Only on What We Need to Know

We start by reiterating the purpose of this blog; go here for our first post, which includes our Mission Statement. In sum: we’re here to help.

That said, we urge State Civil Defense officials to confine their public statements in the few seconds afforded to them by the media as Hurricane Flossie approaches to what is truly important for citizens to know – information that will help us in the coming emergency.

We do not need briefings on internal logistical moves. What are we talking about? Here’s what the State’s top Civil Defense official said this evening on KGMB-TV’s 6 o’clock news:

“We have a fairly large full-time force of both the Army and Air National Guard that’s on duty now, and we’re just waiting for additional needs that we can activate very quickly. Our helicopters are on alert to fly to the Big Island, and the rest of the Air National Guard assets if need be.”

Just Give Us the “Need to Know”

Military personnel would call this “nice to know” information, but it’s certainl…

Central Pacific Hurricane Center Corrects the Narrative of Hurricane’s Path to Match its Map

As noted in the Sunday Morning Update to yesterday’s post, immediately below, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center was in the embarrassing and baffling position of having contradictory information about Hurricane Flossie on its website early today.

Advisory #16 had Flossie moving west while the map on the Flossie information page showed the storm moving much further north than due west. This west-northwesterly path on the map shows nearly the entire state within the hurricane’s “Potential Day 1-3 Track Area.”

Advisory #17 issued at 11 a.m. HST today eliminates the discrepancy: FLOSSIE IS MOVING TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST NEAR 14 MPH AND THIS MOTION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE OVER THE NEXT 24 HOURS.

CHORE wonders why Advisory #16 was so obviously out of synch with the map on the CPHC’s Flossie page. Surely the Center has a zero tolerance policy about publishing anomalous information like this.

Stay alert, citizens. Ours is not a zero-defect world.

With Flossie Bearing Down on the Islands, It’s Time to Check Your Supply of Radio Batteries

SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: Something doesn't seem right about the Central Pacific Hurricane Center's information pages on Hurricane Flossie. Bulletin #16, the latest as of this writing, says: FLOSSIE IS MOVING TOWARD THE WEST NEAR 12 MPH AND THIS MOTION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS. Yet the map on the Center's Flossie page shows a predicted path that is clearly well north of due west, suggesting a much closer pass by the state than would a path "toward the west." Might we expect more precision than this when a "dangerous" hurricane approaches Hawaii?

Maybe this category 4 hurricane won’t strike the islands after all, but in the words of a State Civil Defense spokesman, “So what?” Here’s his entire quote from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin story:

"If this thing fizzles out, so what? Everybody should still be prepared."

There’s nothing like an off-the-cuff remark by a State Civil Defense official to impart confidence among the cit…