Kapolei Businesses Help Protect Us All By Planning Ahead For Disasters

“The best time to exchange business cards is before a disaster, not during a disaster.”

So said Bob Harter of the city’s Department of Emergency Management at a disaster planning exercise last month at UH-West Oʻahu.

At the event, representatives from more than 30 Kapolei businesses took Harter’s advice. They gathered for half a day to discuss a frightening scenario: How would they protect their assets, their employees, and the community, if a destructive tsunami was headed toward the west side?

Jon Shear of ReadyZoneHQ, a Honolulu-based disaster preparedness training company, helped lead the exercise. Shear told me: “I’ve been working in emergency management for about 30 years, and I’ve rarely seen communities pull together and organize events like this to better prepare themselves for disasters by conducting tabletop exercises.”

The companies are part of the Kapolei Local Emergency Action Network (KLEAN), and they were joined by representatives from the Fire Department, Police, and Department of Emergency Management.

After opening remarks by Representative Stacelynn Eli (District 43), participants discussed preparedness, coordination, and response actions.

I spoke to three participants after the event ended, and all three mentioned one specific breakthrough from the event. When discussing how to put out hazardous materials fires that water can’t contain, the Fire Department representative noted that their stations don’t carry the type of fire extinguishing foam that would be necessary.

How, then, would local companies get this foam? Turns out that PAR Hawaiʻi, a refinery and distributions at Campbell Industrial Park, has a supply they’d be willing to share if necessary.

“It’s important to map out who has what,” said Jon Sullivan of Hawaiian Earth Recycling. “As we keep doing it, it brings the community together.”

“We increased our attendance (by) over 10% and engaged a number of new stakeholders to include the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center,” said Zoe Williams, President of KLEAN.

Most of the companies who participated are based in Campbell Industrial Park, home to lots of hazardous materials that we definitely wouldn’t want washed up into Kapolei’s residential areas.

Companies that manufacture or store chemicals are regulated by the EPA — but there’s no requirement that they all get together and plan for disasters, Bob Harter told me.

KLEAN began as a cooperative effort between companies in Campbell Industrial Park. This was back in 1995, when Kapolei barely existed. Marcus Bass, KLEAN Treasurer and Owner of Occupational Training, Inc., told me that as Kapolei has grown, the mission of KLEAN has expanded — now they consider the safety of the thousands of residents of Kapolei, not just the assets and employees in Campbell Industrial.

A new initiative along these lines, Bass told me, is deployment of the Nixle Additional Engage System. This platform allows local businesses to broadcast safety information to nearby businesses and residents.

For example, if a business was planning a fire drill, they could let nearby businesses and residents know that the sirens they’ll hear are no cause for alarm.

The members of KLEAN are looking ahead for all of us.

KLEAN member companies include:

  • Hawaiian Electric
  • James Campbell Company
  • Par Hawaiʻi Refining
  • The RMR Group
  • Occupational Training
  • Hawaiʻi Gas
  • AES
  • Grace Pacific
  • Covanta
  • Aloha
  • Cardinal Health
  • Island Energy
  • Coca-Cola
  • HMSA
  • Hawaiian Earth Recycling

If you’d like to work on your own disaster preparedness plan, consult Ready.gov, the city’s Department of Emergency Management.

Also, mark your calendar for Saturday, September 7, when the ʻEwa Beach Emergency Preparedness Committeeholds a free emergency preparedness fair at Ewa Mahiko District Park.