Skip to main content

KSSK Steps Up to Kona Storm’s Emergency; Spokespeople Still Slow with their Response

Last night’s kona storm was as close as we came to a hurricane this year. Utility poles, trees and boulders reportedly blocked streets and highways around Oahu early today as southwesterly wind gusts in the 60-mph range were recorded on Oahu and Molokai.

Oahu’s designated emergency broadcast station, KSSK, has responded well this time. We tuned in shortly after 3:45 a.m. when our neighborhood’s circuit went out (for the sixth time since November 4th).

Christmas music continued to play except for a short “live” newsroom announcement around 4:10, and Mike Perry went “live” at 4:30 and has been going at it nonstop as of this posting.

The station’s newsroom seemed to be fully activated, with personnel breaking in with reports on school closings, highway reports and other newsworthy items. Overall, this was the Michael W. Perry we remembered from Hurricane Iwa 25 years ago – fully engaged and obviously wearing his “emergency hard hat” today.

Where Were the Responders?

What wasn’t as smooth was the flow of information from first responders. Officials with storm-related information were slow in communicating with the public through KSSK.

Hawaiian Electric Company had been experiencing power outages yesterday and last evening, so the company presumably could have anticipated that thousands of customers would wake up in the dark this morning and need information.

Yet HECO's spokesperson wasn’t heard “live” on KSSK until shortly before 6 a.m., long after many customers began calling the station. Even then, his first two reports were brief and focused only on outages on the windward side, north shore, central Oahu and the leeward coast. Nothing was said about the ongoing blackouts in urban Honolulu, leaving those of us without power since 3:45 wondering whether the company knew about our outage.

HECO sent a second spokesperson to KSSK’s studio, and that was a good move. Perry could turn to HECO’s in-studio representative, a former Advertiser reporter who hit a good sympathetic tone about the public's inconvenience in his reports on the company's efforts to restore power.

Callers complained about the lack of information from the Department of Education. Its spokesman wasn’t on “live” until after 6 a.m. The University of Hawaii’s rep didn’t call until after 6:30. We don’t recall hearing anyone from the civil defense agencies or a Honolulu Police Department spokesperson in the first hours. Callers obviously were displeased, and some urged KSSK to contact the DOE and UH for information.

Keeping Step with KSSK

CHORE’s advice to first responders is to just pick up the phone and call radio stations early and often. How hard is that? More to the point, it’s what first responders should be conditioned to do. This was a major lesson we wrote about recently in our 25th anniversary remembrance of Iwa in the Honolulu Advertiser.

First responders are not information “gatekeepers.” That’s the term for newsroom professionals who decide what’s “news” and what isn’t. Official spokespeople don’t horde information; they exist to disseminate it quickly.

We don’t know what explains the relatively slow response today, but we do have this simple suggestion for all companies and agencies that are expected to communicate information to the public during emergencies:

Be as quick with your response as the official emergency broadcast station – KSSK. If the station was operating at full speed by 4:30 a.m. today, why weren’t you? Help KSSK and other stations keep your customers and citizens informed by planning your response to be as quick as the broadcasters'.

KSSK performed well during and after today’s storm. First responders still have work to do.

What About the Public?

Several callers to KSSK said they couldn’t listen to the station because their power was out – meaning they apparently don’t have a portable radio in the home. That’s pretty amazing, so people:

Go out and buy a cheap battery-powered radio! It will help you stay informed – and keep you off the phone so you're not blocking others with important information they need to convey to KSSK and the public.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

This is Your CHORE if You Choose to Accept It

CHORE stands for the title of this new blog: Citizens Helping Officials Respond to Emergencies.

Specifically, the focus is helping officials in Hawaii respond to emergencies such as the one we just had -- the two earthquakes (6.7 and 6.0 on the scale) that struck the islands on Sunday, October 15, 2006.

"Help" is the operable concept. I get the feeling -- based on news coverage of officialdom's emergency response -- that some good old-fashioned idea mongering and suggestions might help improve communications to our population during and after emergencies.

You be the judge after reading this report in The Honolulu Advertiser today, headlined: "Debate begins on delay of news"

My reaction to that story is that our Civil Defense officials, elected government leaders and broadcast media need to communicate more, not less. Comments by officials in this story suggest a mindset to not tell the population too much for fear the messages might be misunderstood.

My thoughts …

Perry and Price Are Right: They Really COULD Do Their Brand of Emergency Broadcasting from Albania

Hawaii News Now reports "live" from the Big Island; 
1500 AM on Oahu delivered the goods on Iselle with the HNN simulcast.
Honolulu’s designated emergency broadcaster, KSSK, did what it said it would do – move its market-leading broadcast personalities to Las Vegas the day before Hurricane Iselle was expected to hit the islands. You can read about that decision here.
In so many respects, KSSK’s emergency broadcast role in August 2014 mirrors how the station performed after the October 2006 Big Island earthquakes (here, and here), how it performed after the December 2008 island-wide power outage and on other occasions, most of which are chronicled at CHORE (such as here, here,here and here).
In a nutshell, there’s nothing in KSSK’s approach to emergency broadcasting to suggest it knows how to respect the emergency. And here’s the proof:
KSSK’s 7:30 a.m. Newscast on August 8, 2014 – about five hours after Hurricane Iselle arrived on the Big Island.
Story Lineup * Iraq ISIS attacks s…

KSSK: Power Outages Reportedly Weren’t Widespread Enough To Mention in the News

We now have additional information about KSSK’s lack of power outage coverage early this morning. CHORE questioned the station's performance today for not mentioning any power outages in its early newscasts, even though outages had been common during the thunderstorms and, according to a Hawaiian Electric recording at its Trouble number (548-7961), they were still happening.

HECO’s message at 4:20 a.m. mentioned 18 communities where outages had been reported. (The list had grown to 26 communities by early this afternoon.) We had no reason to doubt the list’s accuracy; on the contrary, we had reason enough to believe outages were indeed happening in those 18 communities -- from Niu Valley to Mililani Mauka. The reason we called HECO in the first place was that power was out at our home and our entire community of dozens (hundreds?) of other homes.

Except for this: Chuck Cotton, vice president/general manager of Clear Channel Radio Hawaii, told CHORE the following in an email:

“A H…