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Showing posts from November, 2007

Whether a Fluky Accident or Deeper Problem, Power Line Fatality Requires Full Disclosure

You probably never worry about whether the H-1 overpass will flatten your car as you sit at a red light on Nimitz Highway. Overpass failures are so rare we don’t give them a second thought – although last summer’s Minneapolis bridge collapse sometimes crosses our mind. Same with power lines. We drive under scores if not hundreds of them each time we move around the island. They’re part of the environment that we grudgingly accept, preferring them to be underground when feasible. Power lines are up there, everywhere, and we expect them to stay up there. When a line does fall, it’s almost always because a pole has been rammed by a car or truck. That we can understand. What’s unsettling is an apparently spontaneous power line fall, like the incident in Wahiawa two days ago that claimed a life. A van caught fire when hit by a falling 7200-volt line; the occupant suffered third degree burns over 90 percent of his body and died late the same night. A good Samaritan who tried to op

Power Line Fall Update: Van Occupant Dies

Yesterday’s incident in Wahiawa that apparently involved a fallen power line has claimed a life. Both the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin have updated their web pages late this morning with this news. As we suggested earlier today , this tragedy undoubtedly will produce intense scrutiny of Hawaiian Electric Company’s maintenance program – from outside and within.

Latest HECO System Crisis Nearly Kills Two; Multiple Problems Question Grid’s Overall Status

Power outages are one thing, but when equipment failure leaves two innocent people in critical condition, questions must be asked about the general condition of Hawaiian Electric Company’s system. A man was severely burned when a live 12,000 volt power line fell on his parked van yesterday. A would-be rescuer was shocked and hospitalized in critical condition when he tried to open the van’s door. According to a HECO spokesman, an insulator holding the line in place had a problem – no further information. We all live beneath a grid of wires charged with electricity. Now that they’re starting to fall off poles, we have reason to be alarmed. If this were an isolated incident, yesterday’s emergency might not trigger much concern, but as noted here yesterday, HECO’s system reliability is in a nosedive. We’ve had five outages in our neighborhood since November 4. Seeing the Big Picture Numerous outages and failing equipment that nearly killed two people are combining to create a

Another Rain Storm, yet Another Power Outage

Having once called Hawaiian Electric Co. our home away from home, we know it’s no small thing to keep the lights on 100 percent of the time, but what’s with HECO’s reliability these days? We had another power outage in the early-morning hours today -- our fifth in Waialae since November 4th. It’s gotten to the point that if it rains, we expect to lose electricity, and that can’t be right. We saw a “trouble truck” leave the vicinity of the Malia Street substation just before 3 a.m. after the power came back. Maybe that was a coincidence, but it’s probable a troubleman corrected some condition or other – an open breaker perhaps – at the substation to restore power. We always thought Load Dispatch on Ward Avenue could close breakers from a distance using its computer-controlled network. Whatever, the utility’s reliability is in steep decline, and with a wetter than usual winter season predicted, we’re wondering how often we’ll be in the dark. ( 11/29 Update: We later bumped into a

Hawaii Enjoys Trouble-Free Thanksgiving, but San Franciscans Continue Battle over Oil Spill

Residents of the 50th State sometimes think everything is perfect on the other side of the ccean. California does so much so well that it’s almost surprising when officials badly botch an emergency response. Take the current fight over what went wrong with the big San Francisco Bay oil spill on November 7th. A San Francisco Chronicle page 1 story today covers the verbal battle between the Coast Guard and the City under the headline, “ Coast Guard denies calling off S.F. fireboat responding to spill ” It serves as a reminder that no matter how confident first responders may be in their emergency capabilities, events can and often do produce a subpar performance thanks to the human factor. A Better Thanksgiving A quarter century ago today many Oahu households cooked their turkeys on the BBQ following Hurricane Iwa's visit two days before Thanksgiving. Today, the Honolulu temperature is 76 with mostly sunny skies, the wind is only 10 mph from the northeast and the traditional

Another Power Outage after a Drenching, but Radio Outlet Gives Multiple Updates this Time

Another downpour, another power outage in the Ainakoa neighborhood at the kokohead end of the H-1 freeway. That makes four blackouts in the past 16 days, and we have to wonder what makes rain such a challenge for Hawaiian Electric Company these days. The challenge of communicating about the outage was overcome this time by KSSK and HECO, however -- a big contrast to the news blackout on November 5th . The outage began at 5 a.m., we called it in by 5:03 and KSSK’s first report was at 5:20. A report 20 minutes later quoted a HECO spokesperson and said the outage was affecting about 200 homes in Ainakoa. This also was a refreshing change in that we heard nothing from HECO on the designated emergency broadcast station on November 5th. KSSK said traffic lights at Kalanianaole Highway and Ainakoa weren’t working and repeated the outage and power report at 6 o’clock, just when the lights came back on. We hope HECO figures out what’s causing these multiple outages, but we have to comme

Column Recalls Iwa’s 25-Year-Old Lessons that More Recent Events Show Have Been Forgotten

We have a commentary in today’s Honolulu Advertiser about emergency response lessons that were lost in the quarter century since our first “modern” hurricane. CHORE readers are invited to leave comments below with your own remembrances of Hurricane Iwa and what else you think our current crop of crisis communicators should know about emergency response.

Don’t Leave It Up to UH Authorities To Decide if Security Threat Is Dangerous, Says UH Student

Returning to the issue of the University of Hawaii's emergency warning system that we first raised two weeks ago…... The Honolulu Star-Bulletin published a column by a UH student yesterday that's worth a read. It decries the lack of an adequate campus warning system after someone was overheard threatening to shoot up the campus in late October. Here’s the essence of her argument: I do not wish to have campus authorities decide whether an incident is potentially dangerous to me. I want to be responsible for determining my own safety by first receiving immediate and adequate notice of potential harm. The man who allegedly made the threat was not apprehended until the following day; therefore, the potential for harm existed while students were in class or in dorms during the period preceding his arrest. This simply is not acceptable. Both students and UH faculty are speaking out about the lack of an adequate campus-wide warning and are asking for an improved emergency warn

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:

Power Outages Abound, but KSSK Doesn’t Mention Any of Them in Today’s 1st Newscasts

Have they learned nothing about emergency communications down at Clear Channel? The station’s morning show hosts just did their first newscast of the morning – at 5:10 a.m. instead of 5. CHORE knows for a fact that power is out in communities all over Oahu. We had to call Hawaiian Electric at 4:20 to report our own outage and heard the list of outages in all sectors. But Oahu’s primary emergency broadcaster doesn’t mention any of them individually or all of them collectively in their first newscast of the day. Here’s what’s making news this morning at KSSK in the following order: The Hollywood writers strike • Oprah in South Africa • Nebraska runaways caught in Mexico • Troubles in Pakistan • (moving to local news) Boulders fall into homes • Problems with waste water discharge into ocean • Superferry could change islands’ lifestyle • No whale watchers for Superferry • State to build homeless shelters • Weather – high surf advisory, temperatures….and that’s all, folks. You reall

Resolution Notes 'Insufficient Notice' in Alert

The following resolution has been proposed to the Faculty Senate's Committee on Student Affairs for discussion as "old business" at its next meeting on November 21st: Whereas on Thursday, Oct 25, 2007 a man was overheard threatening to kill 30 students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa; and, Whereas the UH-M Chancellor's Office limited its notification of this serious threat to the broadcasting of a text message and an email to the university community; and, Whereas this limited alert seems to have been insufficient notice in view of the serious nature of the threat in question; Now be it resolved that the Faculty Senate Committee on Student Affairs affirms the need to find better ways to alert the entire campus community in a timely manner whenever a serious security threat arises.