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Hawai'i on alert: Preparation strongest defense against terrorism

by Dava Della, Lifestyles editor


The world has changed since Sept. 11. Our nation was at risk to terrorist attacks even before then, and it is considered even more at risk since the United States invaded Iraq. Following Sept. 11, the Office of Homeland Security began working to minimize the threat of terrorism in our country and to communicate the different levels of threat to the American society. An advisory system using color codes was developed to help prepare for each level of terrorist threat.

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There are five threat conditions, each identified by a description and corresponding color. From lowest to highest, the levels and colors are: Low = Green Guarded = Blue Elevated = Yellow High = Orange Severe = Red


The higher the threat condition, the greater the risk of a terrorist attack. A Red level indicates an attack is happening.

Risk includes both the probability of an attack occurring and its potential gravity. Our national threat level is currently at Orange, which signifies a high risk of terrorist attacks. This color code system has been adopted by the state of Hawai‘i. Hawai‘i sits at Yellow, or a less-elevated risk level.

Despite best efforts, there can be no guarantee that, at any given threat condition, a terrorist attack will or will not occur. At all threat levels, we must remain vigilant, prepared, and ready to deter attacks.

Heightened threat conditions can be declared for the entire nation or for a limited geographic area or sector. For example, last May, FBI officials received warning of terrorists planning to attack New York City landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. In Hawai‘i, reports circulated about the al-Qaeda network’s plans to attack the nuclear-powered submarines and ships at Pearl Harbor.

The duration of a threat condition depends on the individual circumstances of each threat. An initial and important factor is the quality of the information itself. The following factors are used to assess the information and thus the seriousness of the threat:

§ To what degree is the threat credible?

§ Is the threat corroborated?

§ Is the threat specific and/or imminent?

§ How grave are the potential consequences of the threat?

The Hawai‘i Homeland Security Advisory System is for use only in the state of Hawai‘i. This system is the same as the National Homeland Security Advisory System except that the color black has been added. Black signifies that a terrorist attack has occurred in the state of Hawai‘i.

Upon the advice and recommendation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, County Police, and the military, HHSAS threat conditions are determined by the Director of Civil Defense who issues an advisory to key state, county, and private sector agencies reflecting the possibility of a terrorist threat against a potential target in Hawai‘i.

The HSAS and the HHSAS differ in that the HSAS reflects a threat against the nation and may not necessarily affect Hawai‘i. The HHSAS is the same across all the Hawaiian Islands.

The HSAS also does not necessarily apply to U.S. holdings on foreign territories—embassies, military bases, naval ships, for example. The Secretary of State retains the authority to establish threat levels for foreign embassies and posts, while the Secretary of Defense sets threat levels for defense forces. According to the Office of Homeland Security, military facilities in the United States are excluded from conforming to this system because they must operate under one unified threat system that applies to forces at home and abroad (

Following the recommended actions for each color code can help you to reduce the stress and anxiety created by future threats. When each of us takes an active role in our communities, we all stand alert, united, and prepared. With the war in Iraq, preparation is probably the strongest defense we have against terrorism.

In the meantime, as on the other occasions when the national threat level has been increased, continue your daily work, family, and leisure activities with a heightened awareness.

What to do

Would you know what to do if there was a direct attack on Hawai‘i?

In partnership with Central Pacific Bank, the State and County Civil Defenseand the Hawai‘i State Chapter of the American Red Cross recommend the following actions in the event of an attack:

Green—Low: Determine your current level of preparedness and develop a plan tailored to your needs; learn basic first aid and CPR; have a fully stocked first aid kit; examine volunteer opportunities in your community.

Blue—Guarded: Be alert to suspicious activity and, if necessary, report it to the proper authorities; review stored disaster supplies and replace any outdated items; develop an emergency communication plan with family, neighbors, and friends; volunteer with a local organization.

Yellow—Elevated: Check telephone numbers and e-mail addresses in your emergency communication plan and update as necessary; develop alternate routes to/from work/school and practice them; continue volunteering.

Orange—High: Review your disaster plan; exercise caution when traveling; assign a meeting location for the family. If a need is announced, donate blood at a designated blood drive or the Hawai‘i Blood Bank. Prior to volunteering, contact the agency to determine its needs.

Red—Severe: (* Note: All actions listed under the previous advisories should be completed by this stage.) Listen to radio and TV commercials for current information or instructions; contact your office to determine the status of your work day or site; follow any travel restrictions announced by local government authorities; provide volunteer services only as requested. Be prepared to evacuate.

Black (only for the state of Hawai‘i): Limit outside activity and travel; report suspicious activity to law enforcement; connect with family members and close friends about their whereabouts.

Additional information can be found at and




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