Friday, October 26, 2007


Failure to communicate at UH could mean disaster next time

by Larry Geller

Doug Carlson over at CHORE (Citizens Helping Officials Respond to Emergencies) follows Hawaii's disaster communications challenges and has been a strong and consistent voice for improvement and for an open planning process.

He's now pursuing the University of Hawaii on its failed reaction to yesterday's potential shooter incident. It seems UH relied on email to get the warning out. But how often do you check your email? There is much to question on why nothing better was in place for just the sort of contingency that occurred.

Doug is asking the right questions. You can visit his blog to learn and to get involved, particularly if you are a UH student, parent or relative.

Doug's query to a UH spokesperson begins:

Once the University is moved to issue an alert about a possible attack on the campus community, as you were yesterday, UH has an obligation to communicate what it knows as broadly, completely, efficiently and rapidly as possible. From the available evidence, UH didn’t do that.

Read the whole story to find out what UH did and didn't do.

Of course, at the back of my mind when I heard about the UH incident was the April 2007 attack at Virginia Tech. I read about that horrible massacre in the Washington DC papers while I was visiting there. Perhaps the best coverage appeared in the excellent weekly, Washington City Paper. Here's a snippet from one of their articles, a conversation with a woman in a Virginia bar immediately after the shootings:

She wants to know why the president didn’t cancel classes until 10 a.m., some three hours after the gunman killed two students on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston Residence Hall. As everyone by now knows, the assailant then took his weapons—9-millimeter and .22-caliber handguns—to Norris Hall and killed 31, including himself.

That was a massive communication failure, resulting in possibly avoidable deaths. In order to prepare for a similar situation in Hawaii we should follow up on yesterday's incident carefully.

Check out Doug's blog, help avoid a Virginia Tech incident in Hawaii.


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