State, FEMA join in threat response


POSTED: Thursday, September 03, 2009

No government agency alone can help a community devastated by a natural disaster, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official said here yesterday as FEMA and the state committed to joint response and recovery work.

“;The truth is no one level of government has all the needed resources everywhere they need them at any given time,”; said Nancy Ward, FEMA administrator for Region IX, which includes Hawaii. “;It really takes us all, working together, to meet the critical needs of devastated communities. And this is how it should be.”;

Ward and Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, state adjutant general and Civil Defense director, signed plans for coordinated efforts to mitigate natural disasters.

One plan called the All Hazards Concept Plan will serve as an umbrella for responding to a range of disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. The other plan, called the Catastrophic Hurricane Operations Plan, will focus on response and recovery from a Category 4 hurricane.

Both plans will serve as guides for a joint response to threats, Ward said. The federal agency spent more than $1.3 million and worked more than 10 months with all levels of government as well as nongovernment groups to develop and test the plans.

A three-day exercise called Makani Pahili was held in June, during which a Category 4 hurricane was simulated, allowing agencies to practice communication, deploying resources and providing meals to those displaced from their homes. Tests were also conducted last month with the threat of Hurricane Felicia.

The state continues to look for more shelter space. Shelters would accommodate more than 50 percent of the population, including tourists—above Department of Homeland Security guidelines of 35 percent. Still, the state wants to increase that to 80 percent.

Professors at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering held a demonstration yesterday of how thick plywood can withstand the force of flying debris in a Category 3 hurricane.

A wind cannon was used to shoot an 8-foot-long two-by-four at 35 mph at two pieces of 3/4 -inch plywood cemented together. The two-by-four bounced off the thick board.

Lee said the boards could be used to shield school windows to provide more shelters for residents and tourists.