Ige administration praised for hurricane response

Posted on Sep 26, 2018 in Featured

Hurricane season June 1 – Nov. 30

There’s no rest for the hurricane-weary. Even as some Hawai‘i residents are still recovering from Hurricane Lane and Tropical Storm Olivia, more storms are predicted through the end of November. The state’s string of natural disasters — from the April floods to the Kīlauea eruption to the named hurricanes — has proven one thing: Teamwork at all levels is making the difference when a real-time crisis hits.

The state’s rapid, coordinated response under Governor Ige has earned repeated praise from the community. One resident on Facebook wrote, “Super-impressed with the coordination of emergency response among all the agencies and the private sector. The mayors did a great job, too. Thanks for keeping us safe.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen with Governor Ige.

While the rest of us hunker down when hurricanes threaten, state, county, federal workers and the military spring into action on multiple fronts. In the case of both Lane and Olivia, the governor’s speedy requests for presidential disaster declarations provided valuable access to federal resources. A Joint Task Force 5-0, led by Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, ensured the National Guard and active duty military could work together on several islands.

For Tropical Storm Olivia, the governor said he felt it was important to sign his emergency proclamation before the hurricane made landfall. “We wanted to make sure that we could preposition assets, equipment and personnel ahead of the storm. It’s not only the wind impact; it’s rain and flooding, as we saw with Lane.”


Public and private sector leaders gather at HI-EMA to provide news updates on Hurricane lane. Photo: Hawai’i News Now

For both recent storms, Governor Ige held multiple news briefings to update the public. He called in representatives from the National Weather Service, FEMA, the utilities, shipping, the airlines, emergency healthcare and the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority to answer questions. In a Honolulu Civil Beat story, a Young Brothers operations director said, “I’ve never seen that level of cooperation — everyone’s coordinating, everyone’s talking. The state and the counties — it’s probably the best they’ve ever handled an emergency response.”

At an Aug. 30 news conference with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA administrator Brock Long, the governor praised the ongoing partnership with local officials in providing lifelines to supplies and resources when they were needed most. “I’ve never seen so many FEMA personnel in every county, to provide expertise, support, advice and access to resources,” said the governor. “They’ve been true partners, and we’ve established a very strong relationship over the past four months. They have executed their mission tirelessly and with great compassion.”

DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, school officials, Gov. Ige and Hawai’i island legislators visit Waiakea Elementary to inspect flood damage.

Long said FEMA is striving for a “culture of preparedness” that is “locally executed, state managed and federally supported.” He emphasized that it’s not just a government solution, but incorporating the private sector and the whole community. “We’ve got to stop looking at citizens as survivors only and how to tap into citizens as part of the solution,” he said. Nielsen added, “I ask the citizens of Hawai‘i to visit ready.gov to learn about life-saving training and other ways they can protect their families and communities should a disaster occur. We look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with our local partners as recovery continues.”

Are we prepared for the threat of more storms? Governor Ige replied emphatically, “We’ll continue to be partners in keeping the community safe 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year because that’s our collective commitment and our collective responsibility.”

Read more in October’s Capitol Connection newsletter