Federal agency leaders were briefed today on relief efforts in the state during 4 months of devastating natural disasters. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, who also heads the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says FEMA coordinators were already in Hawai’i assisting during the volcanic eruption on the Big Island, the April flood on Kaua’i and O’ahu, and ramped up operations when Hurricane Lane threatened the islands August 22nd.
“More than 2,900 FEMA and other federal responders were deployed and/or were supporting in Hawai’i prior to Lane’s arrival. Of those responders, FEMA deployed three urban search and rescue teams, two incident management assistance teams and local emergency response support personnel and equipment which remains here today.”
Secretary Nielson says the lessons learned during and after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, resulted in revamping the logistical response plan for FEMA. Governor David Ige praised the agency, saying FEMA representatives were at every County and State emergency operations center, which enabled the system to work as designed.
“I get the list of priorities from the Mayors as they identify different events or different things are occurring in real time. We’ll identify the priorities and we pass it up the chain of command and the response is appropriate to that.”
FEMA Administrator, Brock Long, says the disaster response and recovery system is locally executed, state managed and federally supported. He says the disaster response effort should focus on local assets and capabilities first.
“What we did coming into Hawaii was, right off the bat, instead of saying how much food and water can FEMA bring in, let’s assess where the wholesale grocers are; how many days of food are actually on the island; how do we keep that pipeline going, and if it breaks, then we bring in enough pre-positioned food to backfill any gaps that would be there.”
The national disaster response and recovery model is based on leaning forward at every level: individuals, families, communities, and county, state and federal governments. Governor Ige says that partnership is in place for future disasters’
“I think we all recognize that hurricane season runs from May until November, and we will continually be partners in monitoring and keeping the community safe 24-hours a day, 365 days out of the year, because that is our collective commitment and our collective responsibility.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.