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• Hawai’i is ready but continues to train for disaster
Hawai’i is ready but continues to train for disaster
By Major General Robert Lee
Many questions have arisen across the country, state by state, regarding how prepared states are to deal with Mother Nature’s fury.
Since Hurricane Katrina wreaked so much death and destruction along America’s Gulf Coast, State Civil Defense and our federal, state and county partners have re-examined response plans for a large natural disaster.
We want residents and visitors to know that we are ready and continue to train as we prepare for different scenarios. It is a continuous process. Although we believe we are prepared for all types of situations, the one thing Hurricane Katrina taught us is that no state can allow itself to fall into a false sense of security. We must keep preparing.
In Hawai’i, state, federal, county governments, the military and non-governmental agencies work closely together throughout the year to create plans and develop procedures to respond to a disaster. We routinely conduct exercises to test these plans, and modify and improve them based on what we learn during the exercises. Then we test them again and again.
In fact, since Governor Lingle appointed me as head of State Civil Defense in December 2002, under her guidance, we have conducted 20 table-top plus 20 functional exercises involving hurricane, tsunami, earthquake or terrorism scenarios, with each exercise being increasingly more complex and encompassing.
Also, the governor has met with Homeland Security, as have I on a continual basis to ensure Hawai’i is ahead of the curve. In the past three years our state has received more than $70 million in Homeland Security grants.
We also learn from smaller, more localized disasters such as the Mapunapuna and Manoa floods and the recent spate of brush fires on Maui, the Big Island, O’ahu and Kaua’i. In these cases the close relationship we have developed with the Pacific Area Office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has benefited those who were threatened or impacted by the fires and floods.
All disasters have certain elements in common including the potential for death, injury and the destruction of property. Therefore, we take an “all hazards” approach to disaster preparedness planning. This approach is much more efficient in that it minimizes the duplication of efforts and reduces cost. For example, communications equipment purchased with antiterrorism funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can also be used in dealing with a hurricane or any other crisis.
In addition to statewide preparedness, every Hawai’i resident should be asking themselves, “Am I prepared for a hurricane or other emergency?” Have you prepared a disaster kit and taken the other steps recommended in the Civil Defense preparedness pages in the telephone directory? It only takes a little of your time today to prevent a disaster for you and your family tomorrow.
Being prepared also means following emergency instructions when disaster strikes.
Governor Lingle put it this way, “When the authorities tell you what you need to be doing, you risk your own health and safety if you do not follow their recommendations.”
My fellow citizens and guests to our state, we remain vigilant and ready to react to any situation which is thrown at us. We do not take this responsibility lightly nor do we believe that we have all the answers. But, we are confident that today we are prepared to help you, should the situation arise.
State Civil Defense and our partners in both government and private agencies are continually preparing to deal with disasters. We are counting on you to do your part, as well.
Major General Robert Lee is State Adjutant General and Director of Civil Defense.
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