Hoaxes succeed only if people lose their heads
Rumors of an earthquake and a tsunami alarmed scores of unwitting people.
THOUGH earthquake jittery residents can be forgiven for overreacting to bogus reports of an impending temblor and tsunami during the weekend
, they would have been better off following the advice authorities have repeatedly conveyed for emergencies: Don't panic.
Moreover, in the wake of the quake last month that rattled the islands and cut electricity in much of the state's populous regions, people should have already been prepared to deal with a crisis.
Judging from the scores who raced to stock up on food, water, gasoline and batteries and the hundreds who flooded Civil Defense offices, police stations and other agencies with phone calls, it appears that many residents have not made plans to sustain themselves and their families or thought through how to react in an orderly manner in times of danger.
Government can only do so much. Individuals bear a measure of responsibility to assure their own safety and welfare, too.
Part of that obligation is to be informed not only about emergency procedures, such as siren warnings and tsunami flood zones, but also about natural occurrences common in Hawaii.
For all the advances in science and technology, experts still cannot predict exactly when an earthquake might take place. Seismologists can note build up of pressure and earth movements, but have not yet learned enough to forecast quakes.
On the other hand, experts have made great strides in predicting the timing and potency of tsunamis, which are generated by quakes. Emergency agencies are able to issue warnings about anticipated waves, but not a quake itself.
So when people heard rumors of an imminent quake Sunday, they should have been skeptical. Had the hearsay only involved a tsunami, their fears might have been warranted, but had there been one, Civil Defense and other government agencies would have issued alerts.
On Thanksgiving Day, Civil Defense -- burned by criticism for staying mute after the Oct. 15 quakes -- used a new procedure of the emergency system to tell people the 5.0 temblor had not caused a tsunami. Though there were some glitches, it appears Civil Defense is moving ahead in providing the public with necessary information.
It is unlikely the unprincipled rumormongers who initiated or passed on the quake-tsunami predictions will be identified or caught. The public's only defense against such malicious hoaxes is to prepare for disasters, to stay informed and to keep cool.