We’re nowhere near Halloween, but a few days ago the State of Hawaii made public one of the scariest reports I’ve read in a long time. It’s the All-Hazards Preparedness Improvement Action Plan and Report, issued by a team led by Brigadier General Kenneth S. Hara, Deputy Adjutant General for the State of Hawaii Department of Defense. Commissioned in response to the false missile alert Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA) sent out on Jan. 13, the report sets out a “road map” for where the state needs to go in its efforts to keep us all safe in the event of a major disaster.
Though just 36 pages long, the report makes for grim reading.
“It is important to note that HI-EMA is prepared for and stands ready to immediately respond to and provide support to the counties of Hawaiʻi ensuring rapid recovery from natural and man-made disasters–with the exception of nuclear capable ballistic missile attack,” states the report.
And even that seems overstated. Here are excerpts from the report dealing with the state’s major vulnerabilities–not merely in the case of missile attack, but basically any major natural disaster:
• The Port of Honolulu is by far the most significant single point of failure, as its capability cannot be duplicated in any other commercial port in the state. The state possesses no heavy salvage or dredging equipment organic to government capabilities. Hence, port damage that requires such equipment for restoration will result in the loss of mass importation for 19-30 days. For each day the port is closed, it takes approximately five days of importation to reestablish inventories.
• Similarly, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu is the major air hub, and estimates three days to restore one runway. Depending on the severity of the disaster, it is estimated that the HNL could be partially operational between 3-12 days. If the Port of Honolulu is closed, HNL has about four days of jet fuel on-hand.
• Food and Water supplies are very limited without constant importation. Upon port closure, there is an estimated five to seven days of food within the state. After five days of no food importation, the market capacity will be below forty percent. No large stores of surplus emergency rations exist.
• Sixty percent of the major power plants are located in inundation zones. Power is delivered through an overhead transmission & delivery system that is extremely vulnerable to high wind events… The electric generation systems also have limited surplus equipment with some components requiring up to nine weeks for delivery.
• Fuel/fuel products are entirely imported through sea transportation… Most fuel storage facilities are in inundation zones, making them highly susceptible to high wind and water damage.
• There are insufficient hurricane evacuation shelters to meet the estimated demand of the population and these shelters have no supplies. The designated hurricane evacuation shelters and the post-impact sheltering systems are in need of retro-fitting and improvement. Currently, the state does not have any plans to reinstitute fallout shelters.
• In general, hospitals have 72 hours of emergency surplus of major medical material, pharmaceuticals, fuel for generators, and food/water for patients.
• There are approximately seven days of pharmaceuticals in the system after shipments cease.
• Hospitals currently operate at about 90% occupancy rate. On average, about 2,505 of 2,784 staffed beds in Hawaiʻi are filled, thereby reducing the capability to handle a large surge of mass casualties.
It’s like the entire state was designed to be as vulnerable to disaster as possible.
“This is uncharted territory, and we are using this experience to vastly improve our strategic planning and disaster preparedness,” Governor David Ige said in a Feb. 20 public statement issued when the Hara report came out. “As we take the action steps described in this report, we will become a stronger, more resilient community.”
Excuse me, “uncharted territory?” Hurricanes, tsunamis, major earthquakes–even a possible nuclear strike–are old threats. The state has literally had many decades to build up reserves, prevent construction of critical infrastructure in dangerous spots, etc. Instead, what do we have? Power plants and fuel depots located in inundation zones?
In any case, Ige said he’s gonna need a bit more money to help deal with all this.
“I’ll be asking the Legislature for more than $2 million right now to build capacity,” Ige said in a statement released on Feb. 20. “It’s all about the safety and security of the people of Hawaiʻi.”
Given all the deficiencies and vulnerabilities highlighted by the Hara report, $2 million seems painfully inadequate.
Click here to read the Hara Report.
Photo of the Port of Honolulu: Prayitno/Flickr