State Civil Defense defends proactive decision - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State Civil Defense defends proactive decision

Gen. Robert Lee Gen. Robert Lee
The closure of schools and government offices left roads relatively empty on Friday on the island of Oahu The closure of schools and government offices left roads relatively empty on Friday on the island of Oahu

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HAWAII STATE CAPITOL (KHNL) -  The state of Hawaii lost about $8 million by shutting down "non-essential" departments Friday, in anticipation of 60- to 65-mile-an-hour winds reaching our shores.   Still Hawaii State Civil Defense leaders defend their decision, saying it was the right thing to do.

It wasn't something they took lightly.  The decision was made after multiple meetings with the National Weather Service.  State Civil Defense says it's better to err on the side of caution, to protect the lives of the people in our state.

Ominous clouds sprinkled some rain on Oahu, and kept the H-1 Freeway wet.  Winds shook trees on the windward side, but Mother Nature didn't bring the 60- to 65-mile-an-hour winds the National Weather Service predicted.  The State Civil Defense stands by its decision to shut down non-essential departments as a precautionary measure.

"Two years ago we had a high wind storm too and we lost power on the windward side of the island," said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, the director of the State Civil Defense and the state's adjutant general.  "Compounded with the loss of power, not working traffic lights, we felt that it was just safer to minimize the people on the roads."

And that's exactly what happened.  Streets were fairly empty, and folks like the Unebasami family decided to stay home.

"I think it's great that they did it the day before instead of right at the beginning of the day where parents will be scrambling trying to figure out, ‘What do I do?  Who's going to watch my kids?'" said Kyle Unebasami, a father of two young children.  "So I think it's a good thing they did it ahead of time."

Unebasami is a social studies teacher at Waipahu High School and he supports the Department of Education's decision to cancel classes.

"Anything we can do to make sure the kids are safe instead of having them make that commute to school if there is some kind of weather problem or some kind of hazard to their safety," said Unebasami.

And public safety is at the top of civil defense's list, especially with recent weather-related events.

"We have the experiences of the rain and the flood just a month ago, so when the National Weather Service says, this might be worse, that will trigger a deliberate decision cycle," said Lee.

Even though the winds changed direction, and Oahu enjoyed a relatively calm day, Unebasami says it's better to be safe than sorry.

"Be proactive instead of waiting for something to happen and it's too late," he said.  "So I think they did a good job."

Civil defense officials say they will always try to be proactive instead of reactive, to minimize potential harm to the people of Hawaii.

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