Name change will reflect a stronger Civil Defense
ON Feb. 7, Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced his proposal to create a new Department of Emergency Management to replace the Oahu Civil Defense Agency.
I am writing to address some key issues and to assure everyone that that our agency will continue to provide the same level of dedicated service to the City and County of Honolulu and our residents.
The mayor's proposals would not displace anyone currently at OCDA. In fact, we are planning to add up to four more positions. In addition, Hannemann has made arrangements to add much-needed additional office space to our current Emergency Operating Center.
As many people are well aware, the Civil Defense moniker is rather dated. I say this with the utmost respect for an organization I have been an employee of for almost 10 years and have been a partner to for more than 20.
If you look at county and state emergency operations nationwide, you will find that the majority of these organizations use the name Office of Emergency Management, Emergency Management Division or other, similar wording. Even the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has the CNMI Emergency Management Office to coordinate its disaster response operations.
Almost all of these organizations and agencies can trace their beginnings back to the earliest days of Civil Defense. This is a heritage that we here in Honolulu can and should be proud of.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, emergency management programs nationwide have had to deal with a new and complex playing field. We have had to react to new threats and develop new ways of responding to save lives and minimize property damage and destruction. We also have had to add new partners and partnerships to our ever-expanding mission.
At the same time, we now have access to new federal funds, training, equipment and programs to support city and county disaster management and response.
In November the presidents of the International Association of Emergency Managers and the National Emergency Management Association unveiled a new national symbol to promote emergency management.
The new logo is intended to help the American public understand the importance of emergency management and to encourage people to become more involved in disaster preparedness in their everyday lives.
In the same fashion, Hannemann has put his full support behind our agency and mission, and these efforts highlight the importance and priority that his administration places on emergency management for the City and County of Honolulu.
The city's proposed Department of Emergency Management, or DEM, will continue to function much as the Oahu Civil Defense Agency has in the past, but we will be better able to utilize all tools available to us and be empowered to be more proactive within our city government.
This is an exciting time to be a part of the emergency management system here at the city and county. In addition, with the planned construction of the new City Joint Traffic Management Center on Alapai Street, we will have a new home from which to coordinate city operations.
Last, I want to address a vital component of our organization: our cadre of volunteers. We will continue to rely on the invaluable resources and commitment of our dedicated Civil Defense and Civil Defense Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service volunteers. That need has not and never will change within this organization, no matter what name we operate under.
John M. Cummings III is an education, training and public information officer with the Oahu Civil Defense Agency.