Wrapping up on an experience of a life time in Hawaii

Wow, I can’t believe that in one short month, we’ve gone from having a brief phone conversation about the possibility of conducting training in Hawaii, to actually having conducted the training, and now I’m home again.  The past 31 days has been a blur of activity.  What an amazing time line we worked through.  And it wouldn’t have happened without the energetic and committed team of players we had in place (Hawaii State Civil Defense, FEMA EMI, the instructors, and the students).  I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity.

Last Thursday evening several of us participated in a late evening “strategy” session where we discussed concerns and issues in emergency preparedness for the State of Hawaii and its’ citizens.  Out of those insightful discussions came the following points.

We must make citizen preparedness a priority

For the past several years, homeland security investments have been focused primarily on public safety and first responders.  While much of that investment was necessary and appropriate in the past, haven’t we reached a point where we should be shifting our focus from public safety and first responders to the citizens of our communities?  Shouldn’t we be making greater investments that help our citizens become better prepared (“resilient”)?  We thought so.  And not just in Hawaii, but across the United States.

The importance of networking

If history repeats itself, many of those attending our training this past week will return home very excited and anxious to begin using their new-found knowledge.  Unfortunately, reality will catch up to them and distractions will start to pop up threatening future forward movement.  In an effort to channel our interest and energy and use it to continue forward momentum, it was suggested that those in class should continue to meet on a regular (recurring) basis to network and support each other.  In an effort to accomplish this, they have agreed to meet periodically on a conference call to support each other and address strategic ideas to grow and enhance community preparedness.   Working together, they will reinforce their own learning and discover other ways in which to help their communities become better prepared.

National Guard support

On our final day together, we had the great fortune to have Col. Joe Logan join us for lunch.  Col. Logan serves as the Chief of Staff for the Hawaii National Guard at the Joint Forces Headquarters – Hawaii.  During his comments to our class Col. Logan expressed his appreciation for the work each of the students does across the state (islands) in helping citizens prepare for emergencies.  He mentioned that the National Guard was pleased to be a part of the training this week and to play host for us at the wonderful National Guard RTI facility.

A look back

Now that I can look back at this great experience, I’m happy to know I have so many new friends in both Hawaii and Samoa.  The students in our class were so gracious to us.  Throughout the week they were very attentive, they asked great questions, shared terrific experiences, and were always willing to participate.  An instructor’s ideal class.

This week I also learned.  During our “teach backs” (student presentations) I learned several new instructional techniques from my students that proved to be very effective ways of demonstrating to a class.  I thank my students for sharing their insights and knowledge.

I was surprised to learn that Hawaii has 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones within the state (islands).  Yes, it does snow in the higher elevations of Hawaii!  I also learned that there is only 1 firefighter/EMT for every 450 people, there is only 1 police officer for every 430 people, and there is only 1 ambulance for every 12,000 people.  Additionally, here in the continental United States, we can leverage “mutual aid” where when a community’s first responders are overwhelmed, they can call for help from a nearby community.  But when you live on an island and the nearest help is hours away by boat or airplane, then what?  Given the numerous and variety of risks the islands face, these figures strongly support why the citizens of Hawaii must take personal preparedness seriously.

As we closed our class down we (instructors) were each presented with parting gifts.  I was given a bag of Alaea Sea salts.  Alaea salt is an unrefined Hawaiian sea salt.  The salt is expensive and hard to find outside the Hawaiian islands.  It gets its pinkish-brown color from Hawaiian clay, called ‘alaea, which is rich in iron oxide.  Customarily, Alaea sea salt was used by Hawaiians to cleanse, purify and bless tools, canoes, homes and temples.  Alaea is also used in several traditional Hawaiian dishes such as Kalua Pig (delicious!), Hawaiian Jerky and Poke.

Finally, I’ll leave you with pictures from our CERT training In Hawaii.


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One Response to Wrapping up on an experience of a life time in Hawaii

  1. Glenn Zaring says:

    Tim, you’ve identified some of the key issues about citizen involvement! One that I have observed over the years is that folks in our profession can come in with all zeal and plans possible but if the ‘powers that be’ do not buy into the necessity (or profitability) of what we are doing, we will not succeed.

    Too often, elected leaders and corporate managers take a NIMBY approach and say that it will ‘never happen here.’ Then they turn around as say they are safe because the $9-an-hour security guards are on duty.

    They really have no idea what the issues and challenges are or the need for solutions that we bring to the table.

    One thing I am quite excited about is the new 4-hour Elected Leaders course developed at EMI to work in conjunction with 580, 581, 582. This ‘Cliff Note’ version will hopefully convey the message to folks who REALLY need to hear it. I assisted in development of those classes and it is my opinion that the short version is the right direction to go for our busy tribal elected leaders.

So, what do you think?

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