State review prompted by false missile alert months behind schedule

A task force charged with conducting the review was supposed to meet July 1.
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Nov. 5, 2018 at 8:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s missile alert mistake led to a public outcry and calls for change from government leaders. A comprehensive review of the state’s emergency management agency, however, has already fallen way behind schedule.

January’s false missile alert triggered three investigations, including one by the Federal Communications Commission. State lawmakers also called for a broad evaluation of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency by a new task force made up of more than 20 government and community leaders.

State Rep. Gene Ward wants a thorough assessment of the entire emergency system.

“It has got to be comprehensive, not piecemeal. We embarrassed ourselves,” he said.

The panel will review emergency notifications as well as disaster response and coordination among government agencies and private stakeholders. The group was supposed to convene by July 1, but emergency management officials asked for a one-year extension after severe flooding struck Kauai and Oahu in April.

“We knew that we were going to be seriously distracted by all of the emergencies that were going on, and then with the volcano on the Big Island and the hurricanes, it was just completely untenable for us to put that together,” said Richard Rapoza, a spokesperson for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Ward said he understood the reason for the extension, but didn’t want to wait too long.

“I think delaying it for another year is pushing the envelope of patience a bit,” he said.

The task force will also recommend whether new public schools and government buildings should have a safe room capable of withstanding a Category 3 hurricane.

“Honolulu has never been hit by a severe hurricane and so the thought of spending that amount of money to create shelters that may never be needed is kind of a challenge,” said Rapoza.

With the holidays and the start of the new legislative session approaching, Rapoza said the panel’s first meeting could happen in February at the earliest.

“We intend to make this a valuable review. We’re happy that it’s being done. We’re not resistant to it at all. We’re happy to see it done in a thorough and professional manner,” said Rapoza.

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