Camera puts focus on need for quicker response to Mokulua Islands

Jim Howe, Operations Chief with the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division
Jim Howe, Operations Chief with the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division

KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) – For the past eight months lifeguards with the Honolulu Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division have monitored a live video feed from the Mokulua Islands. What they have seen leads them to believe they need a greater presence on Windward Oahu so they are able to respond faster to emergencies at the Mokulua Islands and other spots between Makapuu and Aikahi.

The camera is solar powered and transmits video to lifeguard headquarters in Honolulu via 3G technology similar to the technology used in smart phones. The camera was built into a fiberglass shell made to look like a rock. The camouflage helped the camera blend into the natural environment and hid it from vandals.

The Mokulua Islands have become increasingly popular with tourists, most of whom paddle rented kayaks to the "two hump" island which has a fairly large sandy beach. (The other island, "one hump," is off limits to visitors.) Lifeguards have become more and more concerned about safeguarding people as they have watched the number of people who visit the islands increase.

"We've got the waves. There's surfing activity. We've got shallow reef areas. We've got very slippery rocks. We've got coral. People get cut. They fall on the trail. They break their ankle. They break their leg. That's where you see us having to come out and transport them back via helicopter," said Jim Howe, Operations Chief with the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division.

Howe told Hawaii News Now because of what lifeguards have seen with the camera they hope to increase their presence in the area.

"We're looking not just here, but this entire Kailua Bay with the huge increase in offshore activities, we are studying putting another ski unit in to service Waimanalo and Kailua Bays," Howe added.

The city has five rescue skis (commonly referred to as Jet Skis) operating around the island, but has never had a ski stationed in Kailua.

"That decision has not been finalized yet, but it does look like that is going to be the best way to handle the issues out here," Howe said.

Having a ski in Kailua would not only reduce response time to the Mokuluas, but also reduce the number of times the Honolulu Fire Department has to launch rescue boats and helicopters to assist people at the islands.

Now that the camera at the Mokuluas has fulfilled its research mission, it is being removed. Lifeguards will take it off the island this week and reposition it at another remote location where they want to monitor activity in an effort to improve safety and their ability to respond in emergencies.

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