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Preparedness Grant Effectiveness Case Study: Hawaii

In October 2019, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducted a grant effectiveness case study with the state of Hawaii to understand how state and local jurisdictions use preparedness grants to increase their emergency preparedness and counterterrorism capabilities. FEMA examined how Hawaii used grant funds to close capability gaps and the impact those investments had on the state’s response to Hurricane Lane, severe flooding, and the Kilauea volcanic eruption and earthquakes, all of which occurred in 2018.

  • During flooding incidents in April 2018, equipment purchased or upgraded through grant funds (e.g., helicopters, rescue boats, camera networks) was critical in ensuring the safety and effectiveness of rescue operations. This grant-funded equipment allowed emergency responders to detect objects or individuals over a large area of water and to continue operations during the nighttime with thermal imaging.
  • During Hurricane Lane in August 2018, community self-reliance and emergency responder awareness—particularly in remote areas—were key to the state’s preparation for disaster. Grant funds supported the training and equipping of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and the use of cameras to monitor activity during and after the storm.
  • The state responded to and closely monitored the development of lava flow from the Mount Kilauea volcanic eruption from May to September of 2018 by means of teams trained in all-hazards incident management and technological system upgrades. These capabilities, funded by FEMA preparedness grants, ensured the safety of residents by maintaining situational awareness and supporting a well-equipped response team for incident response.

Due to the geographic isolation of Hawaii, county emergency responders must mirror state-level capacity for incident preparedness and response. Grant funds help responders prepare for severe events that may require collaboration among multiple counties by increasing tactical capabilities and ensuring interoperability through standardized training and equipment.

This case study found that FEMA preparedness grants played a significant role in Hawaii’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate the 2018 natural disasters. Additionally, Hawaii’s investments in areas such as communications, cybersecurity, law enforcement prevention, and protective equipment has improved the community effectives for disaster preparedness and response. Emergency management agencies in each county have built a strong bond with law enforcement for the protection and prevention of adversarial threats.

To inform this case study, FEMA drew from information that Hawaii provided through various grant program requirements, including the Biannual Strategic Investment Report (BSIR). FEMA also conducted a site visit to four counties and several state agencies in Hawaii in October 2019 to observe the states prioritization and use of preparedness grant funds to address capability gaps. Staff from the FEMA National Preparedness Assessment Division (NPAD) and FEMA Region IX collected information with the participation of the following state and local agencies in Hawaii:

  • Maui County, Emergency Management Agency
  • Kauai County, Emergency Management Agency
  • Hawaii County, Civil Defense Agency
  • City and County of Honolulu
  • Hawaii State Fusion Center
  • Hawaii Department of Defense

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