Daily Archives: 20 October 2006

Can You Hear Me Now?

There are at least two lessons that still need to be learned from
Earthquake Sunday.

The first is why was shutting down all the electrical
generators is seen as the only way to prevent damage to the system (or
as HECO, our local electric company, repeatedly put it: to prevent “further damage” to the system. Further
damage? What damage was there to begin with?).

Yes, I know, at first HECO said the computers were programed to do the shutdown but
that begs the question of who programs the computers? I guess that’s
why they are now saying it was the “heroic” efforts of its employees
who shut down the system. Well, which is it?

In order to prevent this happening again, surely there must be other options short of building
totally redundant systems (which is the straw man argument that the electric
company trotted out this week). Heck, if I wanted to spend thousands of
dollars to “guild” the system I could better use it to buy solar panels
and batteries.

The second lesson relates to communications – or the lack there of.
There is an old saying that the first casualty in war is the truth.
One could say the same thing in a disaster.

In a communication vacuum where accurate and timely
information is lacking, rumors will abound. And in a rumor rich
environment, people may react in non-productive ways. People need
information to make informed decisions. But if they can’t get
information, they will sometimes make it up.

I wasn’t listening to the radio during the entire Sunday morning
but from what I understand, the first government official on the air
was a couple of hours into the blackout.

In the mean time, we had people from all over calling in to the one operating radio station and saying
all kinds of things. Now, most of this was, I’m sure, accurate
information, but who knows if all of it was.

In fact, some of what was said over the radio was from foreign
speaking individuals supposedly telling non-English speaking people
what was going on. Or was it? Who knows.

But as far as I know, at no time did anyone from any
government agency speak to foreign language individuals (of which there
are many since visitors from Asia and Europe make up a large percentage
of the population at any one time).

Now, as to whether Civil Defense should have sounded the emergency
sirens. In this case I agree with the Civil Defense folks that since no
tsunami was generated it would have been inappropriate to sound the
sirens. I mean, the sirens are I think intended to warn people of the
high probability of an impending
disaster. Clearly, in this case, nothing was impending once the
earthquakes occurred.

However, I do think it would have been appropriate to use the TV and
radio system emergency broadcast system, within minutes rather than
hours of the earthquake, to let everyone know what was known at the
time (e.g., the location of the epicenter, the magnitude, and whether
a tsunami was generated).

I’m no expert on any of the above, but the explanations given so far
just don’t pass the BS test.

Have a Great Weekend, Everyone – Aloha!