By Pete Gitto
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Logistics Activity Planner- Pacific Ocean Division
HONOLULU, Hawaii - Tropical force storm winds exceeding 100 miles per hour are expected to hit landfall and wreak havoc on the Hawaiian Islands. The exercise scenario unfolded June 3-7 during Exercise Makani Pahili, which means “strong wind” in the Hawaiian Language.
The USACE-Pacific Ocean Division, or POD, Readiness and Contingency Operations, or RCO, Division provided direct support in the state’s simulation cell, also known as the Sim Cell, during the hurricane preparation exercise that was coordinated by the state Civil Defense and the Hawaii National Guard.
The Sim Cell was collocated with the state Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, within the Diamond Head crater on the island of Oahu, where all state Civil Defense activities throughout the islands and counties are managed. The EOC is housed within an old costal artillery bunker that was constructed in 1919 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Sim Cell was comprised of 20 subject matter experts from federal, state, county, and private sector organizations. Among the experts were POD’s RCO operations officer and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Logistic Activity planner at POD. Their mission was to interact with the state EOC by injecting events from the Master Scenario Event List and to provide subject matter expertise.
Cynthia Keolanui Iverson, who was the Sim Cell coordinator from the state Civil Defense Division, managed and assessed the daily operations of the Sim Cell.
“The professional engagement and initiative from the subject matter experts within the Sim Cell greatly contributed to the realism and success of the exercise” said Iverson.
Makani Pahili 2013 was a Category 4 hurricane that significantly impacted all Hawaii islands. There were five training objectives that were successfully exercised through the week with continuous interaction with subject matter experts within the Sim Cell.
--Evaluate interagency operations as outlined in the Hawaii Catastrophic Hurricane Operations Plan
--Review and improve existing emergency operations plans and hurricane preparedness.
--Exercise Mass Care elements as it relates to shelters and resource distribution.
--Test communication interoperability between shelters and emergency operations centers
--Strengthen Public Information and Warning through the Joint Information Center.
Successful exercise execution requires effective deliberate planning long before the start of the exercise. The POD RCO team was engaged with the state from the initial to the final planning conference. This interaction resulted in the sharing of USACE expertise with all exercise planners as well as created an opportunity for POD planners to hone their skills.
With the wide range of participants the exercise provided a valuable opportunity to build relationships and learn from others. Doug Mayne, vice director of Hawaii State Civil Defense attributed the success of the exercise to the commitment of organizations throughout the state and their willingness to exchange valuable experience.
“The participation of outside agencies and exchange of expertise has greatly contributed to the preparedness of the state and the improvement of our processes” said Mayne.
The POD chief of the RCO Division, Drew Benziger, agreed that the exercise provided a valuable training opportunity and more.
“The big bonus for our participation were opportunities to project USACE capabilities, gain insights to apply to our logistics support and disaster response plans, and develop long lasting partnerships,” said Benziger. “The POD RCO was successful in doing that.”
[Editor’s note: Pete Gitto, the author of this story, provided direct support in the state Sim Cell as a member of the POD RCO team.]