Saturday, August 11, 2007


Osama had better not read this morning's Advertiser

by Larry Geller

Rudy Giuliani's costly decision to place his Office of Emergency Management's center in the World Trade Center has come up again now that he is a candidate for president.

His choice doesn't make much sense in retrospect, and it should make us think twice when we read that Honolulu is doing pretty much the same thing.

This morning's Advertiser describes Honolulu's plan to emulate Giuliani's costly mistake. It seems we're putting all of our emergency response eggs in a single basket and placing it near a spot where bomb-laden vehicles can take it out if they like, thereby shortcircuiting Hawaii's ability to respond to a second event planned elsewhere shortly thereafter.

According to the article, one single building will house the city Department of Emergency Management, Oahu Civil Defense, a traffic management center, and will consolidate dispatchers from fire, police and EMS departments. In case someone wants to drop something explosive on it or drive a plane through the roof, the article helpfully reveals that the heart of the center will be "an open two-story room on the top levels." (I hope they'll really have lots of underground bunkers they're just not telling us about...)

Or if some evil entity prefers to use vehicle bombs, they're facilitating that approach by building a gigantic transit center on the same property. I hope they'll check each incoming bus to make sure it hasn't been hijacked and loaded with explosives.

The article notes that emergency response services are currently scattered across Honolulu. Fire is in the Fasi Building, EMS is at the airport, and police are in their main stations. Isn't that a better idea? A safer idea?

I don't know if Osama Bin Laden reads the Advertiser, and I hope he never does, because while a great big new emergency center with all services under one roof has undeniable advantages, it is, well, a building with a bullseye painted on the roof. Hit me. Hit me.

The article doesn't mention whether the building will have redundant phone lines or emergency generators. I assume it will, but someone should ask. I'm also concerned about the additional 200 traffic cameras mentioned. Will the police be utilizing license plate reading technology similar to the surveillance cameras installed in London? Why so many cameras? Is there something else we should know about these plans?

7 WTC collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on September 11, 2001 taking out New York City's emergency response capability. Giuliani will be taking heat from his critics for not selecting a less attractive target in Brooklyn as long as he is still running. His choice is one of the errors he made as mayor of New York that may stand in the way of his success as a candidate.

We should learn from that tragedy and consider not setting ourselves up in the same way NYC was set up. We should not be building attractive targets in an age of terrorism.


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