Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann yesterday announced the formal establishment of the new City Department of Emergency Management to replace the Oahu Civil Defense Agency. The mayor created the new department immediately following the City Council's approval Wednesday of resolution 07-037, authorizing the reorganization.
"This change recognizes the expanded role the Oahu Civil Defense Agency has played in the administration and oversight of federal homeland security programs for the city and protecting the populace," said Hannemann. "The Oahu Civil Defense Agency has done a fine job for many, many years and it's about time we acknowledge that it is a vital, cabinet-level body.
"The term emergency management is a more accurate reflection of the prevention, preparation, response and recovery coordination role of OCDA in today's society," said Hannemann.
The Department of Emergency Management will not replace or control the activities of city first responders. The primary role of the department will be to coordinate and facilitate emergency operations, training, information sharing, and federal Department of Homeland Security grant application and administration. In the event of an emergency, DEM will activate the City's Emergency Operating Center to ensure the timely and accurate dissemination of critical emergency information to the public.
The new Emergency Management director will continue to be a civil servant and subject to hiring under current civil service guidelines. This is an important factor to ensure that the department retains the long-term stability and direction as it transitions from one administration to another.
Hannemann announced that Peter Hirai, acting administrator of the Oahu Civil Defense Agency, will lead the new department on an acting basis. "We are modernizing and emerging into the 21st century with additional duties and responsibilities that have been placed on us since 9/11," said Hirai. "This elevation from an agency to a department will enhance our role in the protection of the residents and visitors on Oahu. We will continue to work with other city entities to prepare for, prevent, and recover from a disaster."