State envisions 240-acre parcel as future home of emergency response hub

The state is pushing for a new facility that would bring emergency agencies together to one location in central Oahu.
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 3:16 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2022 at 5:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is pushing for a new facility that would bring emergency agencies together to one location in central Oahu.

Spearheaded by the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation, the proposed First Responder Tech Campus is a training and planning center that would unite nearly 20 federal, state, and city agencies.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is among those that would relocate and says it could sure use the upgrade.

“One of the primary reasons we’re looking at a new facility is our current facility was around during the great pandemic of 1918,” said HI-EMA administrator Luke Meyers.

“So any type of modifications that we make or improvements that we make here come with a lot of challenges, and not necessarily a lot of support.”

While HI-EMA’s current location in Diamond Head is iconic and functional, Meyers acknowledges that it does offer logistical challenges.

“Anytime you want to modernize a facility that was built a hundred years ago, it’s not practical,” Meyers said. “When we look at making improvements to telecommunications or painting the building and those items, we really have to look at what we can do in the current facility.”

The proposed FRTC, a 240-acre campus at the Mililani Tech Park, may be the solution as it would include HI-EMA and elements of a number of city agencies including the Honolulu Fire and Police Department and Emergency Medical Services.

Right now, much of HI-EMA’s disaster training takes place on the mainland.

Meyers says the new facility could be a resource for the state, but the entire Pacific.

“As emergency managers, we’re known for three things: coordinating, communicating, and collaborating,” Meyers said. “That involves a lot of customers and stakeholders. Here on the islands, we have a big public safety family, they are obviously diverse by each of our counties. But we really lack facilities to bring people together for when we have emergencies or for overall readiness.”

The Hawaii Community Development Authority recently approved part of the project, but the final cost would be hefty. HI-EMA’s section alone is estimated to cost $110 million.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi is intrigued with the possibilities but said more work is needed.

“A fascinating concept, but it’s still very much on the drawing board,” Blangiardi said.

“We still need to figure out how it’s gonna get funded. We were introduced to that when we came into office. It’s something that’s been in the works for some time. I’m not opposed to it, we just got to figure out how we can get something like that done.”

Financial details are still being worked out and it’s unknown how much state taxpayers would be responsible for.

The HTDC says the estimated cost for the initial phase is $100 million and groundbreaking would begin in either 2023 or 2024.

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