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Showing posts from October, 2007

UH Faculty Senate Committee Asked to Probe Better Emergency Communications on Campus

The University of Hawaii Faculty Senate’s Committee on Student Affairs is expected to discuss “Campus Security” as a new-business agenda item when it meets this afternoon.

A committee member sent the following email two days ago to the committee chair:

As reflected in (the 10/29 Honolulu Star-Bulletin) editorial titled “Get out the alert by any means,” I think the University community needs to ask the UH administration some hard questions about how (the 10/25) security threat was handled. In particular, I agree that, as stated in the editorial, “…An incident at the University of Hawaii at Manoa displays the need for better plans to alert those on campus….”

CHORE is advised that if the committee agrees to take up the issue, it will be discussed in depth at the body’s next meeting on November 21.

We hope that’s the outcome of today’s meeting, as questions raised within the UH community are much more likely to produce improved emergency communications than anything written here or elsewhere…

Star-Bulletin Editorial Supports CHORE’s View: UH Should Use More Communications Channels

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin summarizes its lead editorial today – Get out the alert by any means -- as follows:

"An incident at the University of Hawaii-Manoa displays the need for better plans to alert those on campuses."

Exactly right – as we’ve been saying in our posts since 10/26. The editorial concludes: "While it is difficult to gauge levels of danger without considering each event individually, every person on UH's campuses should be aware of procedures to keep safe." Text messaging, which apparently was the only communications channel UH officials used during last week’s incident, obviously is unable to do that.

Unfortunately, we’ve heard and seen nothing from officials to suggest they are revising their procedures. One could even infer from their public statements so far that they were satisfied with their reliance only on text messaging and apparently no other channels last week.

For the sake of everybody’s personal security on campus, we need to see evi…

With Coincidental Timing, NPR Report Says ‘College Students Decline Text-Message Alerts’

The University of Hawaii’s enthusiasm over the use of text messaging to notify students and faculty about emergencies -- an approach CHORE believes is flawed -- needs rethinking in light of a National Public Radio story today about students' use of TM.

UH seemingly has embraced TM as a “higher-tech” medium to alert the campus community during emergencies. Yet less than 48 hours after Thursday’s incident, today’s report on NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday” should give UH security officials pause.

You can listen to the report at the program’s website, which has this summary:

"College administrators are finding that students are not rushing to sign up for cell phone text-message alerts. After the Virginia Tech shootings last spring, many campuses felt this was the answer to keeping their students alert to danger, but students don't share their concerns."

Improving the Crisis Plan

UH’s apparently used only text messaging on Thursday to send its alert about the bus passenger o…

In Starkest Terms, Yesterday’s “Shooter” Alert Was a Failure; UH Needs a Better Crisis Plan

This will be a long post of an email exchange based on today's first commentary here at CHORE on what we believe was an inadequate emergency alert to the University of Hawaii community. The first email is from UH spokesman Gregg Takayama, who responded to our message calling attention to CHORE's first post. Our response to Gregg follows his email:

Hi Doug:

Thanks for your concern about emergency communications at the UH Manoa campus. Just to let you know that the email alert system used yesterday is not the only method of emergency communications available to us. Based on information provided to UH campus security by Honolulu police, it was decided that it was not necessary to cancel classes or halt any planned activities at UH Manoa.

If it was necessary to evacuate buildings or to order people to stay inside and lock their doors, we would have used building PA systems and loudspeakers on campus security vehicles to make the announcements. Loudspeakers were installed on al…

UH’s Email Alert Fails the Efficiency Test; Students Themselves Reveal TM’s Weakness

Yesterday’s security alert at the University of Hawaii raises additional questions about the wisdom of relying on text messaging as the primary way to communicate with students and faculty in an emergency.

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Mid-Morning Update: CHORE wrote to Dr. Francisco Hernandez, UH Vice Chancellor for Students, and received this reply: "We are all concerned about the safety of our students, staff and faculty. I will bring your email to the attention of the officials on campus who have the responsibility of communicating with our campus during these types of situations."
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As reported in the Honolulu Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin, a student overheard a bus passenger talking to himself about shooting 30 students. UH officials sent an email to students and faculty urging caution.

Two-Hour Information Gap

Except for the email, there apparentl…

Advertiser Story Captures a Contrite Attitude Among Key Players in Communications Chain

Having been interviewed by the Honolulu Advertiser for its series on emergency preparedness, we waited for the paper’s delivery wondering how it would play the story. Would it focus on comments from the state’s high-gloss press conference on Saturday or dig deeper? The very first paragraph set our mind at ease:

“Persistent questions remain unanswered about the state’s plan to communicate with residents in the event of another devastating natural disaster such as the Oct. 15 quakes, say critics who complained bitterly about what seemed like an information vacuum during the 24-hour outage following the quakes.”

Paragraph 2 highlighted residents’ upset over State Civil Defense’s delay in allying fears about a possible tsunami. Paragraph 4 mentioned HECO’s two-hour delay in explaining why the power was out throughout Oahu, and the following paragraph questioned how information will be given to residents quickly.

Seeing It the Same Way

It’s clear others share at least some of CHORE’s perspec…

What Exactly Has Been Updated in EAS Plan?

The first “key recommendation” in the CCRC report says the State’s Emergency Alert System Plan has been updated. One year after the 10/15/06 earthquakes and Oahu’s massive island-wide power outage, these words do not appear in the plan update that's available online: “power,” “outage,” “electricity” and “blackout.”

Just what was updated in this plan? That’s another question to be asked at a future public hearing on the CCRC’s report (see below).

Despite Report, Questions about the Human Element Remain Unexamined on Anniversary

The CCRC’s report released to the media two days ago remains unavailable on-line to the public as this is written in early morning on the one-year anniversary of the Big Island earthquakes and Oahu blackout.

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Mid-Morning Update:The CCRC’s report finally was posted online this morning, two days after the committee posted the video of its Saturday press conference. Despite the report's shortcomings (see below,) all citizens concerned about their families’ communications lifeline during an emergency should read it.

First Impressions: Earthquake Sunday last year was a needed wake-up call. The long description of upgrades at the state’s broadcasting stations is impressive, and a number of other improvements undoubtedly enhance emergency communications.

Continuing impression: This report is flawed because the CCRC did not include the public in any organized and meaningful way. One example of where public input is needed is paragr…

Emergency Communications Enhancements Should Be Briefed to the Public for Reaction

There’s still no on-line link today to the Comprehensive Communications Review Committee’s report that was submitted yesterday to the Governor. As we noted in last night’s post, the January 5th draft report was available immediately at the Governor’s website; why the final report isn’t similarly available for public scrutiny is a question an inquiring reporter may wish to ask.

We have to rely on media this morning for details, and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s list of “key recommendations for improving emergency communications in the state” apparently summarizes what’s in the report. CHORE was founded in the spirit of Citizens Helping Officials Respond to Emergencies, so let’s take a look at some of the suggestions on that list:

• Update Hawaii Emergency Alert System Plan – That’s definitely a good idea; as CHORE noted 10 days after the 10/15/06 earthquake and power outage, the EAS wasn’t activated until three hours after the emergency began. The Honolulu Advertiser reported that the …

CCRC Report Goes to Governor and News Media, But for the Rest of Us, We’ll Just Have to Wait

The Comprehensive Communications Review Committee has submitted its report and held its news conference, which you can view and read about it at the Governor’s website.

But you can’t read the report there. Unlike the CCRC’s draft report that was posted online in January, the final report isn’t available to the public as of late Saturday the 13th. A report that purportedly details how the public will be better served in future emergencies is not yet available to the public. You could laugh if it weren't so serious.

Of course, this isn’t unusual, since the public has never been party to the committee’s doings. As CHORE noted in a recent post, the committee was a group of insiders who among themselves and without public scrutiny have concluded what’s best for us.

Here’s the official word on the committee’s doings, as presented at Saturday’s press conference by co-chair Lenny Klompus, the Governor’s senior communications advisor and PR man:

“The Committee is very proud of the report …

On the Anniversary of Quake & Blackout Sunday, Do You Feel More Secure or Less Secure?

That’s a political question from another era, but it’s worth asking about emergency readiness as we approach the anniversary of the multiple crisis response failures on October 15, 2006 following a Big Island earthquake.

The Governor-appointed Comprehensive Communications Review Committee (CCRC) is expected to issue its final report this weekend on how to improve future responses. It’s worth recalling some of the lowlights of 10/15/06 and the following months so we can compare the report’s recommendations to what we experienced and later learned about emergency response deficiencies, especially on Oahu.

Living Murphy’s Law

The list of communications-related issues, problems and attitudes that prompted CHORE’s launch and subsequent commentaries begins with the inability to inform citizens of the emergency in a timely manner. (We’ve hyperlinked to CHORE’s earlier posts on these subjects.)

• Power Failure, Communications Failure – As we first noted in a Honolulu Advertiser commentary two …