Emergency equipment stockpiled in Hawaii - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Emergency equipment stockpiled in Hawaii

David Smith, in black David Smith, in black
Thermal Imaging Device Thermal Imaging Device
People-Finding Microphone (bottom right) People-Finding Microphone (bottom right)
Rescuer with search dog Rescuer with search dog
Emergency Supply Warehouse Emergency Supply Warehouse

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (Hawaii News Now) - While crews in Hawaii are on standby to help in Haiti, the state of Hawaii says it is ready to respond should a disaster happen here at home.

After the 9/11 attack the Department of Homeland Security gave each state money to spend on emergency preparedness. Hawaii spent its share on equipment in case its harbors and airports aren't available.

David Smith has a big job. His official title is Population Protection Planner.

"How do you sleep at night having such a huge responsibility of protecting the population?"

"Well because it's not just me," said a humble Smith from inside a warehouse surrounded by supplies.

He's part of the Urban Search and Rescue Team made up of 80 people of various specialties. Smith keeps them all together.

"If it's not coordinated it's chaos and when it's chaos we end up losing people," said Smith.

He says the biggest problem in Haiti is just getting people and supplies into the country. Hawaii would have a similar problem if its airports and harbors were down, which is why every county has a warehouse full of emergency supplies.

"We don't have time to wait. You lose people every second every minute. The clock is clicking," said Smith.

He has high tech tools to find people buried in rubble, like a thermal imaging device which locks in on heat sources.

"So this allows a team to further search into that area and pull a debris pile apart to determine what's there," said Smith, as he demonstrated the device.

They also have microphones to slide into collapsed buildings to listen for signs of life. Of course sometimes the best equipment doesn't beat man's best friend. K-9's are also part of the team to sniff out survivors.

The state has spent $1.2 million since 2001 on equipment it hopes it never needs. But it's worth having to avoid the kind of heartbreak that's in Haiti.

"It's a good investment of our taxpayer dollars, no question about that," said Ed Teixeira, State Civil Defense Vice Director.

Especially when it's your job to protect the population.

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