Marshall: Kaua’i is prepared for Iraq war

Local terrorist activity considered

The island’s best minds are working on responses to a variety of scenarios should a Middle East war break out.

“Very much so, yes,” Kaua’i is prepared for war, said Mark Marshall, administrator of the Kaua’i Civil Defense Agency. “We’ve taken a lot of time to look at this thing, and we’ve got our best minds working on keeping people informed, and knowing what their roles are going to be.”

Long-time residents of the island who have endured two hurricanes since 1982, and Kaua’i impacts of the terrorist events of Sept. 11, 2001, are likely in better shape to know what to do in the event of war or acts of terror that may disrupt supplies of food, water or fuel to the island, than residents of other places in Hawai’i, Marshall said.

Where preparedness for a possible terrorist attack is concerned, the island is prepared “as well as we can be,” he said.

“We want to assure the population that government is taking this very seriously, and that we do have plans in place for even the worst-case scenario, some terrorist activity here, and that we’re prepared for it,” said Marshall.

“We’ve had the meetings and the briefings, and we’ve done what we can to try to lessen the impacts of some of these things that may befall us. I think we’ve done an excellent job in the training and in the preparedness,” said Marshall.

A bioterrorism exercise at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility went well, as did a tabletop training initiative designed to “flush out some of our weak points,” he said.

In addition, representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and state Civil Defense Agency conducted risk and vulnerability assessments covering nearly the entire island and various scenarios, and the Hawai’i Homeland Security Advisory System offers preparedness advice for businesses and individuals, he said.

A state terrorist response plan was written just 10 months before the attack on America of Sept. 11, 2001, and federal funds have been used to purchase personal protective equipment and other items for first responders authorized for use in everyday emergency response situations as well as during wartime or in the event of acts of terror, he said.

“We’re actually building our response and capabilities for both natural and manmade disasters,” said Marshall. A computer-aided emergency dispatch system is one new feature bought with some of the $500,000 in federal disaster preparedness funds the county has received.

With nearly 50,000 U.S. troops on the border between North Korea and South Korea, and another 100,000 poised for battle near Iraq, the threat of war remains high, and such a war would have immediate and lasting consequences to the Kaua’i and Hawai’i economies, he said.

Mayor Bryan Baptiste is scheduled to brief members of the County Council at 9 a.m. today at the County Building council chambers about war- and terrorism-preparedness plans undertaken by the county, Marshall said.

Baptiste among other things will tell the council that war will mean a short-term downturn in island visitor arrivals, especially among Japanese and other Asian visitors, Marshall said.

“There’s two issues here,” he said. “One is if we have a conflict and a declared war, say, tomorrow, and then the other one is in reaction to the color-coded advisory system” enacted by the federal Office of Homeland Security.

While the federal alert system has been elevated to orange, indicating a high risk of terrorist attack, the Hawaiian Islands are only at the blue level, representing a guarded risk of terrorist attack, with some portions in yellow (elevated) largely to trigger increased surveillance and keeping various county employees informed about circumstances and scenarios, he said.

In addition to the federal colors of green (low) and red (severe), Hawai’i has a black level that indicates a terrorist attack has occurred within the state.

Last week, Marshall met with leaders of the Department of Public Works, Kaua’i Fire Department and Kaua’i Police Department.

In addition, Marshall has met with public and private disaster preparedness partners to discuss reactions to various events and changes in the color-coded threat level, he added.

The American Red Cross has published a pamphlet that outlines actions to be taken by individuals, families, neighborhoods, schools and businesses for each of the threat levels.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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