Disaster Training Center Proposed for Hawaii

August 2, 2007

The country’s only dedicated center for natural disaster preparedness could be located at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus.

Plans for the training center at the university were included in a conference report approved by the Senate in a 85-8 vote.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said the nation’s first responders need state-of-the-art tools and a high level of training to keep Americans safe in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

“In the wake of the Gulf Coast hurricanes, it became apparent that our country is not adequately prepared to handle such situations,” Inouye said.

The proposed “Center for Excellence for Natural Disaster Preparedness Training” at the university still must be voted on by the House of Representatives and considered by President Bush. Funding for the center will have to be applied for next year.

The center would conduct research and develop models and tools for monitoring natural hazards and evaluating risks to urban areas.

It would also plan for the response, recovery and reconstruction of communities in the aftermath of natural disasters.

The center would be managed through the university, but it wouldn’t necessarily be located on campus, said Gregg Takayama, a spokesman for the school. It hasn’t been determined whether the center would require a new physical structure.

The University of Hawaii has practice in dealing with recent natural disasters, he said.

“We’re probably the only campus in the nation to sustain damage from a flood, earthquake and fire in the span of four years. We’re experienced in dealing with damages,” he said.

Inouye said the University of Hawaii was selected for the training center because of its expertise in education and research of natural disaster analysis and risk reduction.

“No university is better suited to prepare first responders for what they will face in the wake of natural disasters,” he said.

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