Report: Major changes necessary at HI-EMA after false missile alert

Local News

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency doesn’t just need a new leader, it needs to be reorganized to better serve the people of Hawaii.

That was the recommendation after a false missile alert was issued to cell phones across the state last month.

Following the incident, Gov. David Ige appointed Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Deputy Adjutant General, to look into what happened.

The 30-page report was released to the public on Tuesday and looks at how Hawaii can be better prepared for all emergencies.

The recommendations will not be cheap. The report states that HI-EMA lacks a comprehensive strategic plan, so a new plan will be put in place to redefine how it should work.

“Can we repurpose some of these positions as opposed to coming back to the legislature and say, ‘Hey, I think I need six additional people,’ as an example. Let’s re-look at the entire organization see if we can do internal reorganization before asking for additional resources,” Hara said.

But additional resources will be needed. The governor will ask the state legislature for $2 million to increase capacity at HI-EMA.

The plan also means coordinating with the Hawaii Department of Defense.

If the federal government takes over the duty of alerting the public, as proposed by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, Ige noted, “Certainly they are involved today with the missile alert, and we definitely are committed to working with them should they decide that that will be their responsibility.”

There are long-term recommendations with much larger price tags. Among them, building a Joint Emergency Management Center to deal with all hazards at an estimated cost of $135 million.

For now, the immediate goal is finding a new administrator for HI-EMA. Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, who’s dealt with all types of disasters, will help pick the new leader.

“My priority is get good people on board ASAP, address the management problem that is there. Nothing will be fixed unless those things are fixed,” Kim said.

Hara also recommends reviewing whether it’s a good idea to build fallout shelters, along with upgrading our ports and airports.

It’s now up to state lawmakers to decide how much of this they will fund.Click here to view the full report.

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