Hawaiian CERT – Day Two

Aloha, and welcome to Day Two of our trip to the beautiful State of Hawaii and specifically the Island of Oahu.  Weather continues to be very nice as we start our first day of training.

Today, and continuing over the next two days, we’ll be teaching the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA;  www.fema.gov ) L428 CERT Train-the-Trainer course.  We have 36 interested and eager students with very diverse backgrounds.

We started the class with a brief welcome By Ms. Lorinda Wong-Lau who is the Anti-Terrorism Planner for the State of Hawaii – Civil Defense Division.  In her comments, she encouraged the attendees to learn, network, and look for how this training could be brought to communities and citizens across the state to make the state more resilient.

Additionally, we had the opportunity to have Ms. Rachel Jacky, Director National CERT Program call in to the class and provide some welcoming comments and insight for our students.  Her insightful comments reflected on the collaborative relationship FEMA is building between FEMA and state and local jurisdictions when it comes to citizen preparedness and what a vital role local programs play to the success of community preparedness.


I always like to identify student expectations early on in the class and ask the students when they introduce themselves if they would please identify what their expectations are for attending the class.  The three most widely expressed expectations included:

  • Sustainment of programs
  • Gaining more knowledge
  • Developing their Instructor skills

Lunchtime Speaker

During our “working lunch” today we had the pleasure of hearing one of our own students provide an overview of his emergency management programs for the City and County of Honolulu.

Emergency Management Reserve Corps (EMRC) was started as a Volunteer Cadre in July 1941 pre-Pearl  Harbor with the intent of preparing to responding to natural and human-caused disasters.  Today, members of the EMRC serve in various capacities within the Department of Emergency Management (DEM).  Members are “On Call” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and provide the following functions:

  • Assist HPD in warning/evacuation and traffic control operations
  • Assist Ocean Safety in beach closures
  • Assist NWS as SKYWARN
  • Observe and report hazardous conditions
  • Assist with damage assessment
  • Provide fixed/mobile communications

From an administrative perspective, the EMRC members are considered “employees” while activated.  As such, they are covered under §128-16, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) which in turn provides for both medical coverage via workmen’s compensation and reimbursed Mileage and Meals.

The EMRC has 130 volunteers in six geographical districts.  Functionally, each EMRC geographical district  includes an Operation Support Section, a RACES section, and includes a coordinator & staff.  Team members meet monthly and those meetings include both training & administrative matters.  Examples of functional training that’s provided include: Traffic Control, Damage Assessment, Hazardous Materials Familiarization, Radio-telephone Procedures, First Aid/CPR, Incident Command System (ICS), Weather Spotter Training, and CERT.

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a volunteer cadre that was first formed in 1995 with the expectation of having trained citizens who could respond to natural and human-caused disasters.  Oahu CERT’s, like their counterparts throughout the United States, are community/Business/Neighborhood based teams.  In Oahu, CERT’s are self-activating after catastrophic events.  Their duties include:

  • Assist their neighborhoods after a catastrophic event
  • Assist NWS as SKYWARN
  • Observe and report hazardous conditions to EMRC
  • Assist with damage assessment
  • Provide fixed/mobile communications

From an administrative perspective, Oahu CERT’s are members of the host organization and are covered under the HRS Good Samaritan Law.  There are approximately 1300 CERT trained community members that make up 12 Community Teams, five hotel teams (remember tourism is big in Hawaii), and two University of Hawaii Campus teams.  Organizationally, Oahu CERT has one CERT Coordinator and a CERT Steering Committee.  Training is supported by 14 volunteer instructors and classes are held approximately 15 times a year.  Challenges that Oahu CERT face (like many other CERT teams) include:

  1. Having only one person administer the program (limited resources)
  2. Lack of paid instructors
  3. Funding is dwindling
  4. Community mindset – like other communities throughout the United States, community members may believe, all their needs will be taken care of after a disaster.
  5. 10 – 15 Classes held a year – in some cases one might say that’s not enough, in others, one might say that’s too much as we don’t have enough resources to support that many (or more).

Looking forward, the good folks in Oahu are looking strategically at how to reach out to (and include):

  • Neighborhood Board Involvement
  • Community Disaster Committees
  • Boy Scouts of America
  • High School JROTC
  • Business and other Organizations

Working with Access and Functional Needs populations

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, the organizers of this class wanted to create an “EMI-like” experience that builds “esprit de corps’ among the students.  Beyond having us all stay at the RTI, they also arranged to have a working dinner each evening that provided a meal and a guest speaker.  For our first evening together we met and heard Ms. Debbe Jackson from the State of Hawaii Disability & Communication Access Board.  Ms. Jackson spoke to our group about communicating with the Access and Functional Needs populations.

Warm Hawaiian appreciation

The wonderful kukui nut necklace and book "Life in the Pacific of the 1700's"

Well, I want to close my blog today by going back to how we started the day.

As my fellow instructor and I were being introduced at the beginning of class, we were each presented with a Kukui Nut necklace and a book titled “Life in the Pacific of the 1700’s”.

The Kukui tree is the state tree of Hawaii and in the past the oil derived from the Kukui nuts (a.k.a. “candle nut) was harvested and in turn was burned for light.  In Hawaii, the kukui is a symbol of enlightenment, protection and peace.

The book, “Life in the Pacific of the 1700’s” is a wonderful award-winning catalog which shows the exhibits which were collected during Captain Cook’s expeditions to the Pacific.

OK … that’s it for today.  Hope you’ll join me again tomorrow for more.  Until then …

Aloha ahiahi ia oukou


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