Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Pearl Harbor security
worries union

New fences to deter terrorists
may also block emergency help

By Gregg K. Kakesako

A Pearl Harbor union is worried that Navy attempts to beef up security because of fear of terrorist attacks may also jeopardize the safety of shipyard workers.

Ben Toyama, vice president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, points to a minor fire last week at the submarine base when emergency vehicles had a hard time entering an area in the base because of new security fences.

"The employees there had to be evacuated twice, and firetrucks had difficulty getting to the site because of illegally parked cars," Toyama said.

Toyama said 8-foot-high chain-link fences are being erected throughout Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and the submarine base to deter terrorist attacks. He is concerned that firetrucks, ambulances and nuclear-reaction teams may have problems responding because of too many locked gates.

Jason Holm, Navy spokesman, acknowledged there was a problem Aug. 27 with illegally parked cars blocking a fire lane. However, he added, "alternate routes were available and used. Barricades have since been erected to keep cars away from the fire lane to ensure access in the future."

Holm said federal firefighters were called on the morning of Aug. 27 to an office and maintenance shop complex in the sub base because workers thought they smelled something burning. He said the problem was a surge protector used by an office computer. The device was unplugged and a fire extinguisher was used, he said.

The military earlier this year initiated tighter security measures at military bases throughout the world following the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole during its refueling in Aden, Yemen, Oct. 12.

The worldwide safety crackdown has the Army stopping and checking drivers at all its Oahu posts, which in the past had lenient access policies. Guards now regularly keep watch, and visitors have to show identification for passes upon entering Army posts.

Holm said, "Chain-link security fences will be erected around all piers at Pearl Harbor to protect the ships and crews from possible terrorist attacks."

The fence line, which will be completed this month, will protect the waterfront area where Pearl Harbor's 150 ships and submarines are berthed on the submarine side of the base.

However, he said, the only times gates will be locked is when there are no ships or personnel inside the fence line.

"The gates are locked to keep out the mischief-makers," Holm said. "When there are vessels in the area and there are sailors and shipyard workers in the area, the gates will be manned."

Holm said that at Pearl Harbor all emergency vehicles carry bolt cutters, which will be used when necessary to cut any gate locks.

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