Tsunami response cost city $330,000


POSTED: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Good preparation isn't cheap.

The cost of responding to Saturday's tsunami warning is an estimated $330,000 for the city — primarily overtime pay for police, firefighters, lifeguards and Department of Facility Maintenance workers, who manage streetlights, flood control, heavy equipment, city buildings and communications centers. City facilities that closed for the day also lost revenue.

“;It was well worth it, given the excellent response we had,”; Mayor Mufi Hannemann said in a statement. “;The human and financial costs of failing to prepare for and respond effectively to a natural disaster such as a tsunami would be horrendous.”;

Just after the potential threat was detected, Hannemann, who was traveling home from Washington, D.C., activated the city Emergency Operating Center at 9:14 p.m. Friday to coordinate emergency preparation and response. It remained open through Saturday.

City Spokesman Bill Brennan said officials evacuated approximately 50,000 residents and visitors to higher ground. This includes those who participated in what is called a vertical evacuation, which involves moving up to higher floors in waterfront high-rise buildings.

“;People operated in a really orderly way,”; said Brennan. “;The lesson we learned is that we do have a good plan in place, not that there isn't room for improvement.”;

A few tsunami sirens malfunctioned, but the city is addressing those issues. At about $86,000 per siren, “;you'd like to have them working,”; he acknowledged.

Honolulu recently received a StormReady and TsunamiReady designation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Each community must meet a list of criteria, which includes training severe-weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.

Because the other counties had not yet assessed the cost of Saturday's response, a statewide figure will not be available until later in the week, according to Ed Teixeira, vice director of the state Civil Defense.