Emergency Management Agency vital to county disaster response

CHAIR’S 3 MINUTES

As hurricane season is upon us, we are reminded that emergency preparedness in Maui County means being ready for any type of natural disaster at all times. This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects a “near-to, above-normal hurricane season” in the Central Pacific basin.

This elevated outlook gives residents and county officials proper notice to sufficiently prepare. One of the agencies leading our local preparedness is the county’s Emergency Management Agency, which diligently works to keep citizens well informed, prepared and safe when it comes to hurricanes or any other type of communitywide incidents.

Over the past few years, this vital agency has significantly enhanced its ability to provide critical services through the outstanding leadership of Emergency Management Officer Anna Foust. During her tenure, she used her emergency response experience and training to help guide the county to keep citizens safe during hurricane warnings and watches, flooding events and tsunami warnings.

Most notably, Foust provided leadership during the impacts of the Japan tsunami in 2011, Tropical Storm Iselle in 2014, and the flooding events of September 2016.

During these emergencies, the agency activated civil defense notifications, centrally coordinated agencies to properly respond and disseminated critical information and resources to help keep the public safe.

It has recently been announced that Foust will be departing the agency. She has served as the Emergency Management officer since 2011 and previously held the position of American Red Cross, Maui director. While I am saddened to hear she is leaving, I am immensely grateful for the contributions that she has made during her years of service to the County of Maui.

Moving forward, it is my hope the administration will fill the Emergency Management officer position with a highly qualified professional who holds significant experience in coordinating numerous agencies and is able to navigate through the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement process. In the past, this position has sometimes been filled by individuals without the proper emergency response background.

The administration must search for well-qualified candidates who can make a seamless transition in leading our Emergency Management Agency. The stakes are too high and our community has grown to a point where emergency coordination has become quite sophisticated in its implementation.

The Emergency Management officer is classified as a civil service employee. This means applicants must go through a hiring process and cannot be simply appointed to the position. It is critical to have a strong administrator and communicator to do an effective job of protecting our community. This position should not be subject to political influence or affiliation. It is my hope we can find the right candidate to help us stay prepared.

Most importantly, be sure to put together a disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation, at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food, batteries, cash, first-aid supplies and copies of your critical information in the event you need to evacuate.

In addition, stay vigilant, as we should always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Get the latest information and subscribe to Maka’ala, Maui County’s emergency alert system at mauicounty.gov.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is chair of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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