UH crisis training center proposed
The facility is part of a national security bill passed by Congress
The University of Hawaii would house a national disaster preparedness training center under a bill moving through Congress, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said yesterday.
A proposed "Center of Excellence for Natural Disaster Preparedness Training" at the university is included in a conference report that was approved by the Senate in an 85-8 vote late Thursday.
The report is part of a bill carrying recommendations by the 9/11 Commission to improve national security that still must be signed into law by President Bush.
The planned center would conduct research and develop scientific models and tools for monitoring natural hazards, evaluating risks to urban populations and planning for the response, recovery and reconstruction of areas following a natural disaster.
It would also deliver training to first responders, planners and policy analysts in urban areas and maintain a database with physical, environmental, economic and social information related to natural hazards.
"Our nation's first responders need state-of-the-art tools and the highest level of training to keep Americans safe and secure in the aftermath of a natural disaster," Inouye said in a news release. "But in the wake of the Gulf Coast hurricanes, it became apparent that our country is not adequately prepared to handle such situations."
The Hawaii center would become the country's only dedicated center for natural-disaster preparedness under the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Grants and Training, which has partnerships with other universities to work on things like biomedical research and engineering.
The center would be managed through UH-Manoa but not necessarily be located on the campus, said UH spokesman Gregg Takayama.
He noted that the university has experience in dealing with recent natural disasters. Since 2004 the school has been hit by a devastating flood that caused millions of dollars in damage, a fire that destroyed four College of Education classrooms, and a magnitude-6.7 earthquake.
Inouye said he asked for a provision to have the disaster center at UH because of the school's expertise in the area.
"No university is better suited to prepare first responders for what they will face in the wake of natural disasters," he said.