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Volcano Puts Hawaii's IT, Communications Systems to the Test

Hawaii is bracing for the potential that the Kilauea volcano could explode this week, putting pressure on state IT personnel to keep the lines of communication operational.

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Hawaii’s Big Island is bracing for the potential that its Kilauea volcano will explode this week, as the 18th lava-spewing fissure cracked open Sunday, compounding the challenges the state’s IT department faces in ensuring communication systems remain up and running.

Hawaii’s Office of Enterprise Technology Services is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring communication between state, federal, county and city agencies are up and running as the volcano’s fissures break open in unpredictable locations, Todd Nacapuy, chief information officer of Hawaii, told Government Technology late last week when the fissure count stood at 15.

The Big Island was hit with a double whammy nearly two weeks ago — a 6.9 magnitude earthquake on May 4 and the Kilauea volcanic event that forced the evacuation of 1,700 residents in the Leilani Estates area about 35 miles from Hilo, ABC News reported. Since then, 36 structures have been destroyed including 26 homes, as lava snaked through the area following the exploding fissures. Hawaii Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency following the volcanic eruption and on Friday received a Presidential Disaster Declaration from President Trump.

Meanwhile, geologists are warning that the volcano could potentially explode as early as this week, sending boulders the size of cars as far as a half mile from the summit and distributing the toxic sulfer dioxide gas as far as a 12-mile radius, according to USA Today.

Hawaii’s communication challenges may be similar to those faced by other state government agencies in a natural disaster, but the type of double whammy natural disaster the state is managing is rare. Nonetheless, other government agencies may find some lessons learned about coordinating the movement of residents when the exact location of where disaster will hit is unknown.