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Virginia Tech Officials Put Own Safety First, Waited to Alert Students to Shooting Threat

Going on three years after the tragic Virginia Tech shootings that claimed 33 lives, word now comes that some university administrators warned their families and locked themselves in before the rest of the campus was alerted more than an hour later to the threat of a rampaging gunman.

According to an Associated Press story, even garbage collection was halted on the Blacksburg, VA campus before students and faculty were told of the danger.

There’s been little news in the past two years about what University of Hawaii officials are doing to improve safety on our local campuses, but the news in October 2007 wasn’t good.

On October 25, 2007, UH officials were told that a man riding a city bus was overheard threatening to kill 30 UH students. Officials responded by issuing an email alert to students and staff, but other potential channels such as loud speakers and the campus radio station were not used. Several posts here at CHORE in October 2007 noted deficiencies in the University's c…

Felicia To Test State, Broadcast Storm Readiness

Felicia is taking dead-eye aim at the Big Island. We’re two or three days away from feeling the effects of Felicia, and we don’t yet know whether it will be a hurricane, a tropical storm or a depression when it blows through next week.

The trend is downward in wind speed as the storm moves toward Hawaii through cooler surface waters and into wind shears – a combination that can tear at the storm and reduce its power.

This is the first storm we can recall in decades that has approached Hawaii so directly straight from the east. Hurricanes Iwa and Iniki (1982 and 1992) were spawned in the Central Pacific region – hence their Hawaiian names – and came from the south.

Forecasting has improved greatly since those storm devastated Kauai and damaged Oahu, as well. We still recall the 1 am call on 9/11/92 from a newspaper reporter friend who had just learned Iniki was heading straight for Kauai, something not known when most of us went to bed.

What Else Has Improved?

We won’t know until after thi…

Pacific Business News Commentary Suggests ‘No-Nonsense’ Approach to Emergency ‘Casts

Our commentary in the January 23rd edition of Pacific Business News strikes a familiar theme – that the designated emergency broadcast stations have a responsibility to report and inform, not entertain. Here’s the text:

Let’s be honest: The National Weather Service gets it right much more often than wrong. Those “clueless weatherman” jokes are so last century, thanks to today’s array of high-tech tools available to weather forecasters.

When they do get it wrong, the public probably should cut them some slack. The same goes for the officials who relied on severe weather forecasts last week to shut down government offices and schools.

However, one link in the severe weather chain must perform perfectly – the emergency broadcast system. The primary job for designated emergency broadcasters during a crisis is to inform residents about its cause, its likely duration and how to cope and stay safe.

It’s to inform, not entertain, and that’s where today’s chain could use some mending, as man…

If We ‘Never Learn Less’ as Seminar Gurus Insist, What Was Learned from the Wind that Wasn't?

Having spent three long days volunteering at the Sony Open with another to go, we’re going to keep this short. Plenty has been written already about the predicted big wind that didn’t arrive. But there is something worth wondering about, even briefly:

Was anything learned from what many are calling an over-reaction to weather service predictions of heavy winds yesterday?

One senior civil defense official is quoted as sayingif given the same weather information, he’d make the same recommendation to close down schools and government offices. “Given the same factors, that would be the prudent thing to do,” he said.

But first, maybe the prudent thing to do before the next big-wind prediction would be to sit down with the weather service and try to learn something from what just happened.

Put in another context, few military leaders would insist on conducting exactly the same operational maneuver after the first one failed. They’d learn from the failure and plan accordingly.

At a minimum, t…

HECO Says Lightning Caused De. 26 Blackout; July 13, 1983 Outage Deserves Another Look

Hawaiian Electric Company’s explanation on the cause of the December 26-27 Oahu blackout boils down to “unusual lightning strikes.” Both the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin give the story page one treatment.

We have no inside knowledge to dispute HECO’s explanation and, in fact, we’re not disputing it. Lightning apparently was the cause, and without the storm, power presumably would have been uninterrupted.

But we can’t help wondering about whether something designed into the power grid failed to isolate the problem. That issue hasn’t been addressed in any media reports we’ve seen, and far as we can tell, HECO’s representatives have avoided talking about that possibility.

HECO’s explanation suggests lightning strikes created grid instabilities that inevitably required all the generators on the island to shut down. We and others are left to wonder whether those shutdowns truly were inevitable. Is it possible something failed to operate properly that, for example, might have allowed the …

Citizens Deserve Better Emergency Response

Creation of a more robust and flexible electric grid on Oahu receives the Honolulu Advertiser’s editorial support today. The recent island-wide blackout that left residents without power for 12 hours or more is discussed as a providential opportunity to not only strengthen the grid against such blackouts but make it capable of accommodating independent power producers more easily.

But let’s not stop there as we clean up after the outage. Questions are being raised by growing numbers of residents about whether emergency communications serves them adequately during our many storms, power outages and other disruptions to the normal order.

Designated emergency broadcaster KSSK-AM and its primary on-air personalities have repeatedly failed to meet their responsibility in delivering responsible and thoughtful emergency communications to a troubled and fearful public.  (The Honolulu Star-Bulletin expressed similar views in a recent editorial.)

More than Minimal
It’s not enough to start a gener…