Kaua’i hotels remain vigilant against threat of terrorism

Even though the national, color-coded, security-advisory system threat level was reduced to yellow this week, indicating an elevated threat of terrorist attack, hotel managers and security personnel weren’t resting any easier.

Earlier this week, the threat level was at orange, indicating a high risk of terrorist attack, with national leaders warning that hotels might be terrorist targets.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, security and safety of hotels, guests and employees has remained on the front burner, one hotel manager said.

Island hotels and resorts have “appropriately increased (security) levels as national security levels increased,” said the manager.

“There’s more awareness in general” not only from hotel managers and security personnel, but from other hotel employees, guests, and those booking significant numbers of rooms for meetings, conventions and conferences, the manager said.

Ray Blouin, president of the Hawai’i Hotel Association Kaua’i chapter and general manager of Hanalei Bay Resort, contends that Kauaians, having lived through hurricanes, business interruptions caused by the terrorist attacks of fall 2001 and the first Gulf War, are in better shape than most to deal with unexpected situations.

“I think in general the people of Kaua’i and the hotels and resorts on the island are very familiar with unusual circumstances including previous storms and, perhaps, an interruption of business as a result of an international situation including, perhaps, an offshore war,” Blouin said.

Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, there is not a hotel or resort manager on the island who hasn’t reacquainted himself or herself with internal emergency-preparedness manuals, said Blouin.

While he wasn’t aware that federal officials publicly said recently that hotels might be terrorist targets, Blouin said if specific information about such threats surfaced, he’d call an emergency HHA board meeting to make sure the island’s visitor-industry leaders are doing all they can to secure their properties, guests and employees.

“This is the first I’ve heard that, perhaps, hotels and lodging institutions may be a target. If that were to be accurate information, then, of course, our association would certainly call a meeting to make sure that we’re all on the same page,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s a hotel and resort on the island that hasn’t dusted off their disaster-preparedness plans. That’s just good, common practice, that one does on a yearly basis, or in the case of the recent threat of terroristic attack, that one does in the normal process of doing business,” he said.

“And I don’t think there’s a property on the island that hasn’t talked with their staff about the different things that the president of the United States has asked for us to do. It’s just good business practice,” said Blouin.

“I think what’s most important is that we feel confident that the County of Kaua’i has good contingency plans in the case of securing our infrastructure and things like that, which we believe are in place,” Blouin said.

Terrorism was a topic of discussion at a meeting of visitor-industry leaders called earlier this week by Mayor Bryan Baptiste.

“I, quite frankly, walked away feeling very confident that our Civil Defense here on the island, in conjunction with the American Red Cross, has been thinking of this in the background,” Blouin said.

“And I have a sense of comfort in thinking and knowing that they do have a contingency plan in place to protect our infrastructure that we have currently, including utilities and water and things of that nature.”

He stressed that people should be aware of the color-coded, threat-level system, and steps to be taken at each threat level: green (low threat of terror attack); blue (guarded); yellow (elevated); orange (high); and red (severe). In Hawai’i, the color black signifies that a terrorist attack has taken place in the state.

The American Red Cross office, recently moved to the campus of St. Michael & All Angels’ Episcopal Church at ‘Umi and Hardy streets in Lihu’e, has free threat-level brochures.

Blouin echoed a huge sigh exhaled by the island’s other hotel managers when the threat level was lowered from orange to yellow.

“Oh, yeah, it really was a relief” to hear the lowering of the level, he said.

“One doesn’t want to think of our beautiful island ever subject to any kind of outside, deviant factors,” but everyone must remain vigilant, he said.

“One just has to be prepared. I think a lot of people are naturally prepared here,” he said. “But, it’s a good time to ensure that your family and your associates and your employees know, that there’s a place to ask questions, and that they shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions,” he said.

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

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