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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                            February 6, 2007

Release No. M-14-07





            Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced today that he is proposing to elevate the Oahu Civil Defense Agency into a full-fledged City department, to be called the Department of Emergency Management.

            “Since the creation of the federal Department of Homeland Security, the Oahu Civil Defense Agency has had an expanded role in the administration and oversight of several federal programs,” said Hannemann. “The proposed reorganization reflects those increased responsibilities and the reality of the larger role that this department plays in protecting the public.”

            The new Department of Emergency Management will be responsible for coordinating all disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery activity on Oahu.

            Hannemann said, “The Oahu Civil Defense Agency has done a fine job handling a series of emergencies over the past two years. Those include the flooding last February and March, the October 15 earthquake and blackout, the November 1 Nuuanu Pali landslide, the November 15 and January 12 tsunami alerts, and more. 

            “However, as I said in my State-of-the-City speech last year, we need a cabinet-level body to replace the Oahu Civil Defense Agency and help lead what’s being called the ‘Long War’ against terrorism, as well as pandemics and natural and man-made disasters in the post 9/11 world,” Hannemann said. “New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Diego and Boston are among the cities that have set up emergency management offices or departments to meet the challenges of today’s world.”

            Oahu Civil Defense is headed by an administrator. The top person in the new department will be a director, with civil service protection, as prescribed by state law. The director will join other directors of City departments and first-response agencies as a full member of the mayor’s cabinet. 

            The Oahu Civil Defense Agency currently has a staff of nine fulltime employees and a budget of less than $900,000.  A proposal for a modest increase in the staff and budget of the new department is expected when the mayor submits his budget to the City Council in a few weeks.

            “The term ‘civil defense’ dates back more than a half-century,” said Hannemann. “What the dedicated individuals of the Oahu Civil Defense Agency already do encompasses far more than that.”

            The mayor noted that it is the City and its police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, bus workers and road crews that respond to emergencies.

            “We are the ones on the firing line, the first responders as well as the first preventers,” Hannemann said. “Public safety remains the City’s first priority and responsibility.”

            The City held its Poi Bowl exercise last summer to test its tactical interoperable communications plan, which allows emergency responders to communicate directly with each other. The Hannemann administration has begun replacing or modernizing 24 of the City’s communications towers after years of neglect. The Joint Traffic Management Center that the City is planning to build on part of the Alapai bus yard will include a new emergency operations center for the Department of Emergency Management.

            “As my colleagues at the U.S. Conference of Mayors so aptly pointed out: Before we can have homeland security, we must have hometown security,” Hannemann said.




            Bill Brennan, 527-6928

            Mark Matsunaga, 527-5767

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

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