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Hurricane drill to test ability to communicate

Updated: 
June 1, 2014 - 6:52am

Hawaii County Civil Defense will test its ability to communicate during disasters as part of this year’s statewide hurricane drill, said Administrator Darryl Oliveira.

With the help of the Air National Guard, Oliveira said the county will use satellite equipment that will allow it to speak with state Civil Defense and other agencies in case Internet and other services are disrupted as it responds to the mock Category 4 hurricane June 3 through 5.

“This year we are going to test them to the fullest potential,” he said.

Air National Guard Lt. Col. Garrick Yokoe said the system has both Internet and phone capabilities. It can be operational within two hours, with enough bandwidth to support 10 computers. A more robust version, which will also be tested, takes five hours to set up but can handle 150 computers.

Amateur radio operators will also be part of the drill, Oliveira said.

Additionally, county departments will practice removing debris to reach victims at a site near the Hilo landfill and team up with Hawaii Electric Light Co. to remove fallen power poles and wires at the Keaukaha Military Reservation.

During that exercise, Oliveira said the crews will practice removing the utility equipment while keeping it in one piece.

That would be crucial during a disaster to allow electrical service to be re-established as quickly as possible, he said.

Damage assessment teams will also use several abandoned structures in South Hilo and Puna to practice their assessments while using tablets.

The tablets allow information to be transmitted immediately, assuming there is an Internet connection.

Other noncounty agencies participating include the American Red Cross, Army National Guard, community emergency response teams, the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Performing Arts Department and Kilauea Drama and Entertainment Network.

El Nino conditions could create a busier hurricane season, which begins Sunday.

Central Pacific Hurricane Center officials predict four to seven tropical cyclones in the Pacific Basin this year, with an 80 percent chance for a normal to above average number of tropical storms.

For information on hurricane preparedness, contact Civil Defense at 935-0031.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.