Hawaii Unveils New Emergency Radio System

By Herbert A. Sample | October 3, 2008

When the next hurricane or earthquake hits Hawaii, government disaster responders will be able to talk to each other and share data over a robust, digital microwave radio system.

Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona and U.S. Coast Guard officials who unveiled the system said it will remain operational during Category 2 hurricanes, with winds of up to 110 mph, and survive Category 4 storms, with winds of up to 155 mph.

The new collection of about a dozen radio towers and facilities, called Anuenue, links police and fire officials, state authorities and Coast Guard personnel on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. Additional construction needed to connect with Kauai, Molokai and Lanai should be completed in 2011.

“Communication among our islands during a statewide emergency, as all of us know, is very critical,” Aiona said at a press conference in the Capitol. “We can’t afford to allow outages to interfere with the ability of our government agencies to communicate with one another.”

He added that had the new system been in operation two years ago when a strong earthquake struck near Hawaii, causing widespread power outages, it would have greatly improved disaster response and communications.

The new $30 million system carries voice, fax and data and can function for seven days without an outside power source. Its transmission capacity is 20 times greater than the 20-year-old analog system that was in place until 2002. Since then, the state has been using its routine radio equipment and smaller communication systems during emergencies, according to Russ K. Saito, head of the state Department of Accounting and General Services.

The antenna towers for the new system are located on high ground and utilize stronger steel and deeper foundations to withstand hurricane-force winds.

Aiona is acting governor as Gov. Linda Lingle campaigns on the mainland for Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

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