State emergency, tourism officials join in crisis reporting effort
Hawaii’s visitor industry, caught flat-footed in the aftermath of the false missile alert on Jan. 13, is partnering with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to prepare for future situations that could impact visitors.
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Hawaii’s visitor industry, caught flat-footed in the aftermath of the false missile alert on Jan. 13, is partnering with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to
prepare for future situations that could impact visitors.
Whenever there is a
potential crisis, the Hawaii Tourism Authority soon will be expected to compile a daily situational online report with input from county visitor bureaus that will be linked to HI-EMA’s website. Information could include everything from damage
reports and hotel vacancies to airline operations and available visitor industry
Jennifer Walter, HI-EMA preparedness branch chief, said the effort, though still
in the early stages, is an
offshoot of emergency planning that began last year as part of a U.S. Department of Commerce grant.
Walter said the online report will be tested during Makana Pahili, a training planned for June 7 and 8
that will simulate what would happen if a Category 3 hurricane impacted the isles.
“We’ll evaluate the ability of emergency management and the visitor industry to share situational information that supports emergency
operations,” she said. “We can’t do it alone. Most resources are owned by the private sector.”
Jerry Dolak, president of the Hawaii Hotel &Visitor Industry Security Association, said the response to last month’s false ballistic missile alert was mixed because some tourism businesses hadn’t taken the threat of a nuclear attack seriously.
The morning of the false alert, some visitor industry personnel grabbed nuclear attack plans and began carrying out directives developed last fall when Hawaii became the only state to launch siren drills in response to increasing threats from North Korea.
But Dolak said others scrambled. According to
Jan. 13 field reports, not everyone on duty knew about nuclear attack plans or had been trained for quick action, he said.
Paola Rodelas, a spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 5, a labor union representing thousands of Hawaii hotel employees, said workers have indicated that “overall, it seemed no one knew what to do.”
was a major reason the
emergency response from Hawaii’s visitor industry was mixed, said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging
Even after confirming a
false threat, some properties
were hesitant to tell guests without an “all clear” from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which was waiting for Gov. David Ige’s office to
take the lead, Hannemann said.
Toni Marie Davis, executive director of the Activities &Attractions Association
of Hawaii, said she surveyed members in the aftermath and only 18 percent said they had a plan to address a war threat.
“Seventy percent said they planned on putting a plan
in place, but the other 30 percent said it’s unlikely. One said that they ‘didn’t want to come from a place of fear,’” Davis said. “Another said, ‘We are going to have a false-alarm plan ready to go soon.’”
Dolak said most of the
hotel industry has indicated potential nuclear threats will be treated more seriously than in the past, although a tsunami or hurricane is a more likely occurrence.
Jeff Staheli, security director for Allied Universal, which had clients in Puerto Rico during hurricanes
Irma and Maria, said if a similar crisis happened here, businesses would need a month’s supply of cash, food, water and diesel fuel to power generators. Property restoration contracts should be signed already, he said.
Walter said HI-EMA and the visitor industry must partner to address potential shortages that may occur in the wake of natural and man-made disasters.
“I’m fearful of the day that it happens and we haven’t solved it,” she said.
For the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s full coverage of Hawaii’s missile alert scare, go to 808ne.ws/Hawaiimissilescare.