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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 1, 2010

The real thing makes for an excellent drill

Everyone in Hawai'i gets a gold star for their performance in the biggest tsunami evacuation exercise most of us have ever experienced.

We lucked out. Not only did the tsunami waves pass harmlessly, but everyone participated in a real-time, real-danger evacuation drill that enabled officials to see how well those plans on paper actually work in an emergency.

And it enabled families, businesses and the tourism industry to do more than simply go through the motions of a disaster drill. We packed up, moved out and got ready for the worst.

Communication was excellent. There was no showboating by public officials, all of whom offered timely and useful information. Experts from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center were especially accessible and articulate.

Local news coverage was outstanding, calm and comprehensive. Thanks to Twitter and live video feeds from vantage points across the Islands, this was likely the most thoroughly covered single event in the history of Hawai'i.

The fast response by public workers, from Maui lifeguards to Honolulu bus drivers, was exceptional. Given the state's money troubles, it was reassuring to see that the public safety apparatus still moves quickly and expertly.

And Hawai'i's 1.2 million residents came through. Sure, there was the usual clearing out of store shelves, but there was no panic, no confrontations, no snarled freeways.

It wasn't perfect; tsunami sirens didn't work in some areas of O'ahu.

But overall, we should feel good about our performance. Maybe it worked so well because it was a beautiful Saturday morning. The real test will be if we can stay cool when the siren blows on a rainy Tuesday afternoon when everyone's at work and the kids are in school.