Keeping Kauai prepared

LIHUE — A hurricane devastated parts of Kauai, including a warehouse in the Lihue Industrial Park.

That was the scenario that greeted participants of the multi-agency preparedness exercise Thursday morning at the Vidinha Stadium parking lot, which served as the staging area and communications center, and the Lihue Industrial Park, where first responders were working.

County, state, federal agencies and other emergency response partners have been conducting joint exercises on Kauai and the rest of the state this week with the theme of Vigilant Guard/Makani Pahili 2015.

Following the hurricane, workers arrived to discover the damaged warehouse. Debris had damaged several of the containers housing a variety of toxic chemicals and the Kauai Fire Department and the HAZMAT team responded.

“If it’s a hazardous material situation, the Kauai Fire Department takes the lead,” said Colin Wilson, the designated Safety Officer for the exercise. KFD personnel do the situation assessment, evaluation, and proper response.

American Medical Response ambulance and personnel are also on site to ensure the health of the responders, and The Salvation Army’s mobile canteen was activated to help feed the responders.

“This is only the third time since I came to Kauai where the canteen was mobilized,” said Major Mario Reyes of The Salvation Army, Lihue Corps. “We’re geared to feed between 40 and 50 people.”

The goal of the exercises is to ensure Kauai’s first responders will be better prepared for a wide range of natural and manmade disasters.

Because the Community Emergency Response Team operates under the Kauai Fire Department, its team was standing by at the communications center at Vidinha Stadium.

“Our goal today is to shadow the incident commander,” said Sandi Lademan. “But the Incident Command Center is too small to accomodate responders and us, so we’re just standing by in the event they need us.”

She said Friday’s exercise, which involves a full-scale search and rescue operation based out of Hanapepe Armory, might involve the CERT team more fully for triage as well as light search and rescue.

During the exercises, officials are asking the public’s cooperation by staying clear of any obvious or marked areas as well as exercise-related vehicles, equipment and personnel.

Hurricane season started in Hawaii on June 1, and the relevant topic was the hurricane destruction during Thursday’s exercise.

“I would like to thank the participating agencies for their time, effort, and commitment to keeping Kauai safe,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. in a release. “The skills which are practiced and lessons learned during the exercises will benefit first responders, residents, and visitors alike.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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