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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                     October 20, 2006

Release No. M-105-06

 

 

MAYOR ANNOUNCES IMMEDIATE STEPS

TO IMPROVE OAHU’S EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS

 

            Mayor Mufi Hannemann today announced the City is already moving ahead to address public information challenges raised by Sunday’s earthquake and islandwide blackout.

            “We were all frustrated by the lack of timely, accurate information on Sunday,” Hannemann said. “Because of the problems that came to light Sunday, we’ve already taken action to ensure City officials have the ability to communicate directly with the public on Oahu in future emergencies.”

            The City will:

·           Use its Traffic Management Center in Makiki to talk directly with broadcast stations live. Major radio and television outlets have direct communication links to the City’s Traffic Management Center, which is equipped with generator power. Those links are used by media traffic reporters. It’s possible for City officials to speak directly to broadcast stations from the TMC via each of those links. The mayor has already discussed this with Clear Channel Communications, whose KSSK is the FEMA-designated emergency station for Honolulu.

·           Make direct use of the Emergency Alert System, which has been under state control since it was established in 1997.  The City has the physical means to pre-empt all commercial broadcasts to transmit pre-recorded, two-minute messages through the federally funded EAS. However, lack of training and absence of protocols with the state precluded the City’s direct use of the EAS in the past. Hannemann has already written to Gov. Lingle requesting state cooperation to resolve those issues.

·           Set up an AM radio transmitter for the City to use in case of emergency. This will require obtaining a federal license and construction of a 145-foot transmitter tower. The City has begun making inquiries regarding the necessary permits.

 

            “These are just some of the steps we’re taking to address issues identified in Sunday’s emergency,” said Hannemann. “There are other areas we’re going to improve, as we did after the London subway bombings in July 2005, six straight weeks of rain in February and March this year, and Black Tuesday, the islandwide traffic jam on September 5.”

            Hannemann said, “Last Sunday, the Oahu Civil Defense Agency attempted to get word to the public on Oahu before 8 a.m. that no tsunami had been generated, but those efforts were frustrated and delayed. Meanwhile, with hundreds of City first-responders answering calls across Oahu, the City had information to pass on to the public throughout the day. A variety of challenges hampered efforts to get that information to the public.”

            Some media newsrooms also didn’t have electricity, which left them unable to receive fax and e-mail information, and telephone lines were often jammed. City information was often lost in the competition for air time.

            “We want the media and the public to recognize that during emergencies, the City is where to come for the most current, accurate information for Oahu. With virtually all of the first response and critical service personnel under its jurisdiction, the City is in the best position to provide vital information for the public.”

            Hannemann said, “We understand that state officials were preoccupied on Sunday with assessing earthquake damage and beginning recovery efforts on the Big Island, and rightfully so. On Oahu, we were dealing with an islandwide loss of electricity. We had things under control, but we needed a better way to get the word out.”

He added, “While we await the findings of the state panel that’s looking into communication breakdowns on a statewide basis, we at the City are already moving ahead to make sure we can get Oahu’s people vital information in the next emergency.”

 

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Media contacts:

            Bill Brennan, 527-2968

            Mark Matsunaga, 527-5767   

Friday, October 20, 2006

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