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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Security alert system for Hawai'i introduced

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

The state Civil Defense and the Hawai'i chapter of the American Red Cross yesterday released the six-level Hawai'i Homeland Security Advisory System designed to alert and prepare residents, business and law enforcement for the risks and response needed to counter the threat of terrorism.

Hawai'i's color-coded alert system

The Hawai'i Homeland Security Advisory System has six levels, from green — low risk — to black — a terrorist incident has happened in the state. The system spells out measures residents, schools and businesses should take to protect themselves. Some of the recommendations include:

• Green (Low): This condition indicates a low risk of terrorist attack. Individuals should learn CPR, stock a first-aid kit and develop a personal disaster plan.

• Blue (Guarded): This condition indicates a general risk of terrorist attack. Individuals should be alert to suspicious activity and report it to the proper authorities. Families should establish an alternative meeting place away from the home with family or friends. Businesses should purchase needed disaster supplies and equipment.

• Yellow (Elevated): This condition indicates a significant risk of terrorist attack. Individuals should develop alternative routes to and from work and school and practice them. Families should discuss children's fears concerning possible terrorist attacks, and schools should plan to provide mental health counseling for students, staff and parents in the event of an incident involving their school.

• Orange (High): This condition indicates a strong risk of terrorist attack. Individuals should exercise caution when traveling and check on neighbors who are elderly. Schools should be prepared to handle inquiries from anxious parents and media. Businesses should determine the need to restrict access and provide private security firm support.

• Red (Severe): This condition indicates a severe risk of terrorist attack. Listen to radio and television for current information. Contact your work to determine if they need to close and follow any travel restrictions announced by local government. Schools may close and should conduct 100 percent identification checks for anyone entering the school.

• Black: A terrorism incident has occurred. Stay calm, limit activities and travel and be prepared to "shelter in place." Sirens may sound. Be ready to evacuate quickly if ordered to do so by law enforcement. Schools should lock down and be prepared to relocate students.

The system is designed to meet Hawai'i residents' needs and offer practical advice on how to prepare for a terrorist attack. The system includes actions ranging from learning first aid and CPR under the lowest alert, to limiting travel and preparing to be evacuated for the highest level.

"The recommended actions for each color code will enable people to evaluate their current level of preparedness," said Jocelyn Collado, director of communications for the Red Cross in Hawai'i. "We encourage everyone to develop a plan tailored to their individual and family needs or those of their school or business."

The state system supplements the federal alert system. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge had asked that each state develop its own guidelines for a security advisory system based on local concerns that is separate from the national system, according to Ed Teixeira, vice director for state Civil Defense.

The Hawai'i chart runs from the lowest level of green to the highest level of black, which means a terrorist attack has happened. Currently Hawai'i is listed as blue, second to lowest on the chart, which indicates a guarded, general risk of terrorist attack.

The state system mirrors the federal color code chart, though the black level is unique to Hawai'i. The national risk level is currently yellow, or elevated risk of terrorist attack.

The levels may differ, Teixeira said, because the federal system is used as a guideline for government agencies, while the state system is intended to inform Hawai'i residents of their risk level.

Military bases will continue to set their own security levels.

The public will be notified of changes in the risk level through radio, newspapers and television.

Just as Hawai'i prepares each year for hurricane season, Teixeira said the public should consider terrorism a man-made disaster and be prepared to handle the situation.

Teixeira said the Hawai'i Emergency Preparedness Executive Committee, which includes 35 city, state and federal agencies, has been meeting every other month for more than a year to develop plans for communication, planning and training to handle a terrorism situation.

"If we say we are at a certain color, the public can go to the brochure and take the steps needed," Teixeira said.

Assistant Police Chief Boisse Correa said each branch of law enforcement, military and emergency workers has its own directives to follow in case of increased threat of terrorism.

"Each level triggers law enforcement to do a multitude of things," Correa said.

Depending on the threat, police could close streets or move to protect public property including bridges or docks while the military or other groups secure other areas, he said.

Ed Teixeira of the state Civil Defense explains the difference between the federal and state alert systems.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Correa said it is important for citizens to be aware of anything unusual and report it to police.

"The little things can mean a lot when put together," he said.

Collado said hopefully having the guide will lessen the stress and confusion that occur in times of emergency.

The Hawai'i Homeland Security Advisory System and other public safety brochures can be downloaded online at www.hawaiiredcross.org and www.scd.state.hi.us.