Aloha and Mahalo from Volcano Hawaii

Well, it’s hard to believe but I’m back in St. Louis as we wrapped up a great week of training in Volcano, Hawaii. The trip home was long to say the least.

A little bit of sightseeing

Picking up where I last left off, last Thursday afternoon we finished class a little earlier than planned and so Wilson and I hopped in the car and did a little sightseeing. We drove over to see the Thurston Lava Tubes which is a 500-year old lava cave located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Lava caves like this are formed when a river of lava gradually builds solid walls and a ceiling. When the lava flow stops and the last of it passes downhill, a cave is formed. These caves can be a few feet high and only yards long, or they can stretch for miles with high ceilings. After walking through the cave and the surrounding rain forest, we drove down to see where the lava flows went into the ocean. Along the way we passed several lave fields that dated back to the early 1970’s. Finally, when we reached the ocean and the blue water of the Pacific was beautiful.

Friday was our final day in class. For me personally, it started off with a wonderful six-mile run along Crater Rim Road. As I ran past the Volcano Observatory and then the open field with the steam vents I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d ever get the opportunity to return to this place and see more of God’s wonders. I sure hope so.

Polynesian culture

We started class off with another unique opportunity. As I mentioned in previous blogs this week, our class was very diverse. Not only did we have attendees from the Hawaiian Islands, but also from Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. One of the gentlemen from Samoa was actually with us two years ago when we were first in Honolulu Hawaii. In talking with him about the Samoan culture, we agreed there are many similarities with the Native American culture. I explained that in the Native American classes we’ve taught, we usually have someone from their tribe open the class with a prayer in their native language. Along those lines, he shared with me that Samoan tradition is similar and he agreed to open our last day of class with a morning prayer in his native Samoan language. What a great way to start our last day of class.

Another cultural item we learned about was that in the various Polynesian cultures, it’s customary to give your guests a gift. After our morning prayer and before we actually started class, Wilson and I were both presented with blue conference bags with the logo of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense. Inside were homeland security/emergency management related gifts that students from each of the regional areas brought with them to give to us. What a surprise! I’ll proudly display these in my home.

This trip will go down as one of those life experiences I won’t ever forget. My good friend and teaching buddy Wilson and I made many new friends during this trip, and were able to see “up close and personal” one of the greatest natural disaster risks we have – a live volcano.

Well, let me close by sharing some final pictures from our trip.  I hope you enjoy them.

“Mahalo” to all of you who read my blogs during the trip and I hope you’ll come back starting July 28th for a new adventure.


Training in Hawaii Continues


Well, the past four days have been spectacular here in Volcano, Hawaii.

From a training perspective, we ended our CERT Train-the-Trainer class yesterday. Wilson and I shot a short video of our class that we look forward to sharing with our upcoming class at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (FEMA EMI) when we are back on campus at the end of July.  As I mentioned in a past blog this week, our class is very diverse. Most of our class has stayed with us as we began our CERT Program Manager class earlier today.

Hawaiian Hospitality

Similar to the infamous Thursday night BBQ’s we have at the FEMA National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland, a few of our students took it upon themselves to put together a class BBQ for our entire class. What a warm and friendly networking opportunity everyone enjoyed. One of the highlights of this trip will be the friendships we’ve created. The food that was prepared last night was amazing. The menu included great tasting beef steak rubbed with course Hawaiian salt, Char Siu pork, a Portuguese sausage, smoked sausage, and poke which is a raw salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine. There were three kinds of Poke – Ahi poke which is made with yellowfin tuna, a spicy King crab poke, and another that wasn’t spicy. Both the food and the friendship were outstanding.

My Crater Rim morning

This morning stated out at 5:30 a.m. with a morning hike on the Crater Rim Trail up to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. While it may not have started out as what some might call a “bucket list” opportunity, it sure turned into one of those moments in life I’ll always remember. The weather was the same as it’s been since we got here …. sunny, cool, and windy – trade winds are blowing across Hawaii, and the sun was so bright!

While I started out on a trail that meandered through fields and vegetation, I ended up right smack dab on the ridge (edge) of the crater looking down. What an awesome view! As I went further along the trail, the elevation continued to increase. The trail ended at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. From there, I ended up having a short two-mile run back to the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC). I’m including some pictures from my morning walk.

Lunchtime presentation – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ( )

At lunch yesterday we were treated to another special guest speaker. Talmadge Magno is the Chief Ranger of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. His presentation to our class addressed “Emergency Operations” at the park and specifically addressed his unit which is Visitor and Resource Protection. I was surprised to learn just how broad a reach his unit has, including:

  • Special events
  • Wildland fires (including structural fires)
  • Pacific Area Communications Center (ie dispatch)
  • Law Enforcement
  • Aviation
  • Technical Rescue – yes, people need to be rescued when they go places they shouldn’t!

So, tomorrow is our last day. It’s been a terrific experience and I look forward with sharing the remainder of our trip with you soon. Remember to check back.

A beautiful morning for a run.

A beautiful morning for a run.


This is probably my favorite picture.  Smoke from the crater and this lone tree.

This is probably my favorite picture. Smoke from the crater and this lone tree.

I thought this Ohi'a Lehua was really pretty

I thought this Ohi’a Lehua was really pretty

What a view!

What a view!

The beginning of the Crater Rim Trail

The beginning of the Crater Rim Trail

Class networking BBQ

Class networking BBQ

Day Two CERT Training in Hawaii and Volcanos

In my blog yesterday, I mentioned we are at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The park and camp are located at a elevation of 4,000 feet above sea level. I tell you this because the weather here is so different that what you might expect for a tropical area. The last couple of nights the temperature dipped down to the mid to upper 40’s (F; 7+ C) and during the day the temperatures have been in the low 70’s (F; 21+ C). Our host while we are here told us we are on the one Hawaiian island where they actually get snow in the higher mountain elevations! Snow in Hawaii? Not the Hawaii you would expect.

Running by volcanic steam vents

This morning I got up and went out for my morning run. It was spectacular. The sun was just starting to rise and as I started out from the camp I headed east on the Crater Rim Drive toward the park’s main gate. About a mile into my run I came across a large field that has several steam vents. Here rainwater sinks through the ground and is warmed by rocks which carry heat from the lava below. Hot water then rises through fissures to condense in the chilled air. It was really something to see.

Our class

Day Two of our CERT Train the Trainer class went really well today. While most of our time was spent review the core Basic CERT material, our primary student activity was their first “teach back”. This exercise allows students to stand before their classmates as an instructor and apply the training (skills) they’ve learned so far and actually conducted a very small section of material in our class. Past experience has validated that students really enjoy and benefit from the experience. And what’s more, not only do our students learn, but so do we as instructors.

Today one of our students demonstrated a wonderful way to help determine if you have an adequately sized fire extinguisher to put out a fire. He referred to this as his “Yes, No, Maybe” check. Basically it’s a way to size a fire extinguisher against the burning item. If the extinguisher is as big or bigger than the item burning, then yes, you probably have a large enough extinguisher to put out the fire. If the extinguisher is smaller than the burning object, then No you don’t. And of course, there’s always Maybe’s in life.

Lunchtime presentation – Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (NVO; )

One of the key motivators for us to come to Hawaii to teach was the fact that we were going to be at the Hawaiian Volcano Park and we’d get an up close and personal presentation and tour of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Dr. Jim Kauahikaua, joined our class today and provided a terrific overview (and slide show) of Hawaii’s volcanos as well as the island’s earthquakes. Jim is the Scientist-In-Charge of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Later this evening, Jim met us at the Observatory and provided us with a “behind the scenes” tour of the Observatory.

Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up our CERT Train-the-Trainer class. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow to see what else we are getting in to in the wonderful and interesting location. Until then, I hope you enjoy these pictures that I took today.

We're here!  The sign at the entry of the Observatory

We’re here! The sign at the entry of the Observatory

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Looking out on to the crater

Looking out on to the crater

The crater

The crater

Inside the Observatory

Inside the Observatory

A view looking into the crater

A view looking into the crater

In image looking down into the creater looking at the lava flow.

In image looking down into the creater looking at the lava flow.

That's Dr. Jim Kauahikaua, Scientist-in-Charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

That’s Dr. Jim Kauahikaua, Scientist-in-Charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

An even better picture at night

An even better picture at night

A nice nighttime glow picture of the crater

A nice nighttime glow picture of the crater

Aloha from Hawai’i

Aloha from Hawai’i

Looking at my last blog, it’s been a while since I last wrote about anything. I guess I just haven’t had much to say? What? Well, I thought I’d jump back into blogging and take some time and share with you some of my experiences that take place this week while I’m “on assignment” in the Hawaii National Park in Volcano, HI.

I’m here with my good friend and co-instructor “Wilson”. Wilson and I have taught with each other many times over the years and were originally invited to teach CERT Train-the-Trainer and Program Manager classes in Honolulu, Hawaii two years ago. I guess we did a pretty good job because we were invited back!

Getting here

Wow, the trip here was long. I started my day at 3:00A on Sunday morning (St. Louis time) and when all travel was done, I was finally in my room ready for bed at 10:30P Sunday night …. Hawaii time. It was a long day. I travel from St. Louis, to Las Vegas, to San Francisco, to Honolulu, to Hilo. Once we landed, we still had a 45 minute drive to where we are staying. Thank you Southwest, United, and Hawaiian Airlines.

Kilauea Military Camp (KMC; )

One of my unique motivators to come here was that our class is being conducted at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC). While I’ll write more about the camp later this week, let me tell you KMC is considered one of the military’s finest vacation gems. It’s located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and sits amidst spectacular scenery, natural wonders, and cultural treasures including the marvels of the active Kilauea Volcano. The camp is open to all active and retired military, members of the Reserve and National Guard, active and retired Department of Defense civilian employees including Coast Guard Civilians, dependents and sponsored guests. What a GREAT facility!

A great diverse class

This week we have 32 attendees in our class. Most are from the Hawaiian Islands. A few are here from Guam, others are here from American Samoa and some have come as far away as Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. Talking about a long trip!

Many of our attendees are first responders representing law enforcement, the fire service, or emergency management. We have four members of Team Rubicon ( ) which is an organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. We also have, several attendees representing education.

Lunchtime presentation – NOAA/NWS

Each day this week, attendees will be treated to daily presentations from local industry experts. Today, we welcomed Mr. Kevin Kodama. Kevin is the Senior Service Hydrologist with the Weather Forecast Office in Honolulu, HI. Kevin gave a terrific presentation about “Tropical Cyclones – Impacts & CPHC Products”.

OK, well that’s it for today.  I think it’s a good start for a first day day back.  Check back tomorrow and I’ll have more to share with you from the KMC and Volcano, HI.


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.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hawaiian CERT – Day 3 “Learning about early Hawaii”

Well, I hope you had an enjoyable Valentine’s Day yesterday.  As candy is a main staple of Valentine gifts, here in Hawaii we enjoyed some chocolate covered macadamia nut candies.

When you see the view of the local mountains that greets us each morning here on base, it’s no wonder people love to come to Hawaii.  Here’s a few pictures of what lies very near to where we are staying.  Each day the clouds seem to always hang right around the tops of the mountains.  As the sun shines through the clouds and on to the green foliage it makes it appear almost iridescent green!  It really is a view that is awesome.

Well yesterday was another very busy day in class.  As is typically true, we covered a lot of information in an effort to prepare our students to teach the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) curriculum.  The day was spent working on both instructor development skills and reviewing the basic training material.  Hands-on activities included students delivering (instructing) a limited topic of choice in the CERT curriculum.

Continuing on in the exploration of the Polynesian culture, one of our students (“Bill”) took the time to write the following and asked that I share it with you.  I think what Bill wrote reflects the sense of “resiliency” that we strive for in emergency management today.  I hope you find it as interesting as I did when I first read it.

The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated large population in the world.  Hawaii is 2500 miles away from the nearest landfall or civilization.  As such, if you live in Hawaii, you can’t simply go over to the next state or country for support.  That is life now, and that was definitely life in the past.

In ancient times (up to the 1800’s), Hawaii needed to be totally self-sustainable for its food, water, construction material, infrastructure, industry, etc.  When Capt. Cook landed on the Kona Coast in 1787, it was estimated that approximately 350,00 lived on the Kona Coast alone.  It is estimated that the population of Hawaii then rivaled that of Hawaii now.  The irony of this is Hawaii now, imports some 95 +/- of (its) consumer, construction, infrastructure, food, fuel, etc. but with the same size population Hawaii sustained its population of 1,000,000+ for hundreds of years with absolutely no input/import from abroad!  How did they do this?  How did Hawaii feed its large population?

There existed, riveted into the day-to-day business at hand, a resource management system called
“aha ‘puaha” (ah-hah-poo-ah-hah).  The easiest way to explain how this system functioned (works) is; visualize a pizza pie cut into wedges.  Now, overlay that shape and slices over an island and that is basically how Hawaiian islands were divided.  The uniqueness of this land division model was that it maximized local resources and aligned them with the communities (caretakers, stewards at large).

This system worked very well.  As a matter of fact, with a population well over 1,000,000 natives, there was so much food at times that excess surplus would be unintentionally generated and would constantly spoil and end up wasted.

In the 1700’s, established on Hawaii Island was “Parker Ranch”.  Parker Ranch, up into the 1990’s, was the biggest/largest private cattle ranch in the entire U.S. – larger than any private cattle ranch found in Texas, Oklahoma, and beyond.

In the 1800’s, there was so much food in Hawaii that when the California Gold Rush of 1848-1849 occurred, their population grew by over 500% in two years,  out stripping California’s ability to feed its surging population.  As that being the situation at hand, California turned to Hawaii to help feed “the cornucopia of the world”; California.

A Honolulu newspaper ran an article at that time expressing the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce’s relief that now Hawaii had a way to sell their surplus food rather than have it spoil in the field and orchards.  But, with the overthrow of the nation of Hawaii in 1893 by a group of U.S. businessmen backed by the U.S. military and organized religion, the land was carved up into rectangles, the  “aha ‘puaha”  system was unintentionally destroyed, and now Hawaii imports nearly everything it uses at a high premium as importing is a monopolized industry.

Preparedness – Hawaiian Style

Welcome back to yet another SPECIAL EDITION of my blog.  This week I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to be in Honolulu, Hawaii teaching Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Train-the-Trainer and Program Manager classes.  This is my first trip to Hawaii, so I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead this week … and sharing those sites and experiences with you.

Getting to Hawaii – Saturday

It's a good time to be leaving St. Louis

When I left St. Louis, Missouri early yesterday morning it was dark, very cold (in the teens) and snowing.  It was a great time to leave for sunshine and warmer climates.  I flew my favorite airline, Southwest from St. Louis to Los Angeles with a change of planes in Denver, CO.  I know I’ve said it before, but I have to say it again … I really enjoy flying with Southwest.  Their fares are reasonable, their customer service is outstanding, they have a good frequent flyer program, and they don’t charge for your first two checked bags!  I only wish they flew to Hawaii.

On a related item, in the December 2011 issue of “Fire Chief” magazine  editorial director Janet Wilmoth wrote about how Southwest could be seen as a role-model for fire departments.  In her article she mentions a few strategic initiatives that are as applicable to fire departments as they are to Southwest, including:

  • Standardization
  • Service, and
  • Culture

I ate the "double double" animal style

I had a four-hour layover at LAX in Los Angeles so I took advantage of the opportunity and had lunch with my nephew, Kevin.  While reconnecting with Kevin is great, he made the visit even better by taking me to a place I’ve wanted to try for many years, but never had the chance.  Kevin took me to “In-N-Out Burger” !  What a neat place.  Their menu is very limited to burgers, fries, and drinks.  But since I was with an experienced “guide”, we ordered something that wasn’t on the menu.  A “double-double animal style”.  Two hamburgers with pickles, cheese, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and their special sauce (thousand island like).  Man, was it good!  After lunch, Kev dropped me off back at the airport for my final leg of the day’s journey.

From Los Angeles to Honolulu I flew United.  I think I flew many years ago, but not recently.  I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice the five-hour flight was.  The plane was a big 767 and was clean.  The seats were very comfortable.  And the customer service was very good.

Altogether, I spent 20 hours in travel time, of which five were spent on the flight from LA to Honolulu.

Welcome to Hawaii

This week I have the great fortune to work again with a good friend of mine.  Although we haven’t known each other very long, we’ve worked together in Reno (last month) as well as at FEMA’s EMI in Emmitsburg, MD (last October).   Wilson is one of the best instructors I’ve worked with.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, I admire his teaching capabilities.  PLUS, he’s just an all-around good guy!  Anyway, Wilson picked me up at the airport and then took me on a little tour of Oahu.  I actually think we were lost but of course being men, we weren’t about to stop and ask for directions.

For those attending classes this week, the organizers of this great training opportunity wanted to provide an “EMI experience”.  To help create that experience, those from out-of-town are all staying at the new Hawaii National Guard 298th Regiment MFTU (RTI). If you click on the link, take a look at the “Welcome Brief”.

We’re tourists – Sunday

So, today Wilson and I spent the day playing tourists.

Weather was great today.  Mostly sunny, high in the low 80’s, and gentle ENE winds.  There were just a couple of things we knew we had to do while we had the chance.  We wanted to go see Pearl Harbor and also the U.S.S. Missouri

To have the opportunity to see both of these historic sites, it truly reminds us how fortunate we are to live in America.  And when you collectively look at Pearl Harbor along with other attacks like the Murrah bombing in Oklahoma City and of course 9/11, you are reminded about how resilient we Americans really are.

Here’s some pictures from today …

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On the way back to the RTI, we had the opportunity to see some of the beaches and the ocean …

And of course, no trip out-of-town is complete until you have visited the local Walmart …

Does your local Walmart have a Hawaiian BBQ?

Well, I hope you will follow me this week and check back daily to see what’s going on in our class and throughout the state of Hawaii with respect to emergency management.   Along with our classroom experiences, I’ll also be briefing you about some of the guest speakers who will be joining us this week as well.  So stay tuned.