Quake hit media response
A preliminary report supports updating the state's Emergency Alert System plan
Eighty percent of the state's radio and television stations were off the air immediately following the Oct. 15 earthquakes because they lacked other sources of electricity to continue broadcasting through the power failure, according to a survey by the state Civil Defense.
Portions of the survey are included in a report being prepared by Gov. Linda Lingle's Comprehensive Communications Review Committee to recommend improvements to emergency communications procedures.
Committee members are being asked to provide input on draft versions of the report by next Friday. The first version was disseminated yesterday to committee members.
One of the recommendations of the preliminary report is to update the state's Emergency Alert System plan, which was last updated on March 31, 2004. An interim change was distributed to emergency managers and broadcast agencies on Nov. 6.
Among the survey's findings: There was confusion among Civil Defense officials and among radio station operators over which stations were designated for emergency broadcasts on each island. KIPA on the Big island was still listed as a local primary station even though it has been off the air following its sale in 2003. Still, KIPA was the only station with local programming to resume service to West Hawaii at about 8 a.m. and provided informational updates from its West Hawaii transmitter site.
Hawaii Public Radio said its station was staffed and ready to broadcast but had no electricity or telephone service.
A trained operator at KSSK made an on-air announcement about the earthquake at 7:28 a.m. By 7:40 a.m., eight staff members were in the studio broadcasting. However, the public affairs officer from the state Department of Defense who was sent to KSSK as a liaison was unable to get updated information because cellular telephone systems were not fully operational or were overloaded.
The KITV television studio was operational, but its transmitter was not because there was no power at the transmitter site. KHVO, its transmitter in Hilo, was the only one that remained operational. KITV was able to uplink its programming via satellite, allowing viewing on the mainland.
KHNL was off the air because there was no emergency generator at its broadcast tower at Hilton Hawaiian Village. Its sister television station KFVE remained on the air because it had a backup generator at its Palehua transmitter site. However, the station was unable to obtain updated information in a timely fashion.
KHON was off the air on Oahu, but its transmitter sites on the neighbor islands were running.
KGMB was off the air because the station does not have a generator.
Oceanic Time Warner Cable reported that all of its operation centers were working during the emergency. But customers could not receive television, telephone or data services because the signal transmission facilities are not backed up with emergency power.
To help get the message to the public during emergencies, the preliminary report recommends transmitting automatic messages through the EAS, as in the case of hazardous weather conditions, and using electronic message signs on the freeways.
And to help disseminate updated information more quickly, other recommendations suggest establishing a media center for reporters in a new state Civil Defense operations center annex in Diamond Head Crater, installing dedicated telephone lines for electronic and print news organizations, and regular conference calls or videoconferences with media organizations.