A look inside Hawaii's secret pandemic preparations

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -  It's designed with disasters in mind.

But the response trailer is just one item stashed away in a spot so secure, we're not allowed to reveal its location. It's one of seven federally funded stockpiles hidden in warehouses even underground tunnels throughout Hawaii. All are stocked with $12 million of supplies needed to deal with a pandemic. Since the H1N1 virus arrived, hospitals have been tapping in.

"We've already distributed 20% of our stockpile out to hospitals because there's a shortage manufacturers can't get it out quick enough," RN Emergency Services Director, Toby Clairmont said.

Toby Clairmont is with the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, a non-profit representing all island hospitals. The agency manages the stockpiles.

"This is what we call a PPE module. PPE modules are things like patient care suits, blankets. respirators and masks even isolation suits," Clairmont said.

Also here a 50-bed portable hospital.

"This is a complete system. Everything from lights, to showers, to sinks," he said.

A bio-containment chamber to transport a highly infectious patient.

"And as you can see there are glove ports where we can put our hands in there and continue to care for the patient," he said.

Even stuffed animals are stored here - a lesson learned from Hurricane Katrina.

"People refused to evacuate their homes because they weren't given the opportunity to take their pets. So when we train now, we not only train moving people, we train moving pets as well," he said.

In an outbreak Hawaii's stockpile is designed to last eight-weeks.

"It's never enough. The entire nation, in fact a good part of the world is without what they need," Clairmont said.

"This is a shipment of respirators that just came in. There is such a shortage since H1N1 hit, that staff actually had to empty out one of its tunnels, bring it over here..."

Get them ready to disperse to hospitals in the next week. 40,000 respirators in all. Clairmont says it's a sign, that a flare-up in H1N1 cases will hit Hawaii soon.

"It's really climbing, it's climbing at a steep rate, and it's beginning to match what's going on in the mainland so there are a lot of indicators that are suggesting to us that demand is going to grow rapidly over the next few weeks."