Emergency responders gear up for hurricane season in Hawaii - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Emergency responders gear up for hurricane season in Hawaii

BELLOWS AIR FORCE STATION (HawaiiNewsNow) - Experts predict fewer storms than usual in the Central Pacific during this year's hurricane season. That is good news for Hawaii, but emergency response teams are still preparing for a potential disaster.

State Civil Defense and the Hawaii National Guard are leading the week-long Makani Pahili hurricane season exercise. More than 150 National Guardsmen from Hawaii, California, and Nevada are participating. They're working with different agencies like the Honolulu Fire Department, Honolulu Police Department and Federal Fire Department.

In Tuesday's scenario at Bellows Air Force Station, a powerful Category 4 hurricane ripped the roof of a two-story building. The structure collapsed and three people were missing.

"We found out that one was alive and calling for help and the other two were possibly unconscious. We also had a propane leak," explained Captain Walter Faulconer of the Honolulu Fire Department.

Firefighters managed to pull two victims out of the rubble and carry them to safety, but reaching the last one was tricky.

"The wall of the facility was found to be unstable and unsafe to make an entry where we believe there's a trapped person so they're putting up wood braces to stabilize the structure so we can go inside and conduct rescue operations," said Captain Aaron Blanchard of the Hawaii National Guard.

The goal of the exercise is to build relationships and practice communication skills.

"There's always going to be kinks and there's kinks today, but we're working through them and we're practicing," Faulconer said.

A web cam provided a live feed to the Joint Operation Center in Diamond Head. Rescuers learned important lessons during this annual exercise.

"Making sure you got not only your rescue saw, but you got the blades and the backup blades. Same thing if you show up with hammers but no nails. It's going to be kind of hard last-minute to go scrounge and I'm sure someone inside a collapsed structure isn't going to have much patience," Blanchard said.

Responders hope to learn from their mistakes during the training so that they're ready to spring into action when there is an actual emergency.

"It's not a matter of if we're going to have the next disaster, it's when the disaster is going to be and when it comes, hopefully, we're as prepared as we can be and can go out and go save lives and do good things," said Blanchard.

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