Isles get grant for design
of new emergency center

The operations facility will coordinate
efforts in disasters or attacks

A $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will help fund the design of a state Emergency Operations Center, the agency announced yesterday.

The Honolulu Police Department will receive a separate $2.4 million grant to help pay overtime costs for homeland security activities, U.S. Rep. Ed Case said yesterday.

The state's current emergency operations center, intended to coordinate state efforts during natural disasters or terrorist attacks, is in a 66-year-old former munitions magazine inside Diamond Head, said Ed Teixeiria, state vice director of Civil Defense.

The 16,000-square-foot Birkhimer building is adequate to house the 34 state civil defense workers that work there daily. But during an emergency, it becomes "very, very crowded," Teixeiria said.

For example, "at the height of Hurricane Iniki, 180 people were in this facility," he said. "On 9/11, we must have had, on average, 75 people in here."

After Gov. Linda Lingle and 29 people from her Cabinet spent four hours in the Birkhimer conference room during a recent terrorism-preparedness exercise, Lingle had to leave the bunker for enough room to give a press conference, Teixeiria said.

The state Department of Defense is hoping to build a 30,000-square-foot facility, with a more functional floor plan, a media-ready conference room, and a high-tech command and control room that would include big-screen graphics, maps and connections to live camera systems across the state, Teixeiria said.

The grant is part of $81 million awarded nationwide for similar centers.

The state Department of Defense will seek $375,000 from the Legislature to cover the estimated $1.5 million cost to design an emergency center. The center would probably cost $15 million to build. After the center is designed, the state will seek federal grants to help build it, Teixeiria said.

The location of a new center has not been determined, he said.

The state is waiting to hear whether it will receive a separate $200,000 grant from Homeland Security to build a secure communications room at Birkhimer that would link state officials to county and federal agencies via secure video teleconferencing, Teixeiria said. Birkhimer will be in use at least four to five more years, he said.


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