Panel will examine communication failures after fall earthquake
If it's true that forgetful people are doomed to repeat their own history, we already know what could be in store for these Hawaiian Islands.
Most of us have forgotten the panicky feeling we had on Oct. 15 when two major earthquakes rocked the entire state. Damage was extensive on the Big Island, and Oahu residents endured a power outage that lasted all day for most of us and all night for some.
We have forgotten our feelings of vulnerability as usually reliable communications channels failed us completely. Radio and television stations without backup generators were silent, and those that did stay on the air weren't much help in calming our fears.
Information from State Civil Defense and Hawaiian Electric Co. was slow in coming and sporadic at best. Officials couldn't tell residents what they knew; callers had jammed the few telephone lines into the stations, including the designated emergency broadcast outlets.
Complaints about the communications failures dominated conversations for a week or two, but then the November elections took over, followed by the holidays and a new year, with new concerns. October's unpleasantness seems like a distant memory in February.
Thankfully, a volunteer group will bring back those memories for a positive purpose. The Honolulu Community Media Council will host a panel discussion on Feb. 27 titled "Media and Emergency Response."
Representatives of the media, government and the public will explore what went right and wrong on Oct. 15 and discuss the media's ability to respond efficiently in future emergencies.
The public is invited to attend and participate in the discussion. It's worth noting that this will be the first public meeting to evaluate the communications crisis and how government and the media responded.
The 70-member state-appointed committee that reviewed October's commu- nications failures had no public representation and held no public meetings. State Civil Defense officials have not briefed the public on what they are doing to improve their communications capabilities.
The Media Council is stepping into this vacuum with its panel discussion. Members of the public can reserve a place at the $20 Ala Moana Hotel lunch by calling 596-2121 no later than Friday. The Council's Web site -- mediacouncil.org -- has additional information.
Doug Carlson, a communications consultant, writes the Citizens Helping Officials Respond to Emergencies (CHORE) Web log and will be a panelist at the Media Council lunch.