WAILEA, Maui >> State Transportation Director Brian Minaai said his department plans to install electronic fingerprint identification machines next month to conduct background checks on employees working in airport operations areas.
Isle airports to receive
fingerprint ID machines
The devices will help in conducting
checks on airport employees
By Gary T. Kubota
The department has been conducting the fingerprint checks manually and taking usually five days to two weeks to receive a response from a national clearinghouse connected to the FBI.
With the electronic machines that cost a little more than $35,000 each, a response could take a couple of hours to a day, officials said.
Under a new requirement by the federal Transportation Security Agency, all employees working in the airport operations area must undergo an FBI fingerprint review by the end of this year.
The cost for each electronic query is $31.
Fingerprint identification machines are expected to be installed on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and in both Hilo and Kona on the Big Island.
Minaai spoke about homeland security measures yesterday during a forum at a conference in Wailea held by the Hawaii State Association of Counties.
The forum focused on taking action to prepare for a terrorist attack.
"We know the threat is real," said Javier Gonzales, president of the National Association of Counties.
"They have told us over and over and over that America will be attacked again. The question of our ability to respond will be directly proportionate to our preparedness and our training."
Gonzales said his association supported President Bush's $3.5 billion proposal for anti-terrorism but wanted to make sure the money got to the local level where emergency workers would be the first to respond in a crisis.
He advised government officials to identify the risks facing respective counties and develop plans to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks.
Army Lt. Gen. Ed Smith, in charge of coordinating federal support with civil authorities in Hawaii in the event of a terrorist attack, said the military has in the past identified "vulnerable assets" on bases that might be objects of terrorist attacks.
He said the military is now working with civilian authorities to identify critical infrastructure that must be protected all the time and to get those responsible for their security to consider themselves as the first line of defense.
"What we're trying to do is get people talking," Smith said.
"This is a new environment. The threats are real serious. It's not like anything that we've done before. It's more difficult, more complicated."
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