Japanese Government Delegation Tours Hilo Today on World Tsunami Awareness Day

In observance of World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5, Hawaii County Civil Defense hosted a Japanese government delegation for a tour of Hilo and briefings at the Emergency Operations Centers at Hilo Airport and at Civil Defense. The delegation finished today’s tour with a visit to the Pacific Tsunami Museum.

(clockwise starting from top left):  Marlene Murray, Hawaii County Managing Director Randy Kurohawa, Secretary General Ryota Takeda, Ed Teixeira, Ilihia Gionson, Tiffinie Smith, Rumi Ariyoshi, Consul General Yasushi Misawa, Satomi Okagaki, and Honorary Consul General of Hilo Art Taniguchi.

(clockwise starting from top left): Marlene Murray, Hawaii County Managing Director Randy Kurohawa, Secretary General Ryota Takeda, Ed Teixeira, Ilihia Gionson, Tiffinie Smith, Rumi Ariyoshi, Consul General Yasushi Misawa, Satomi Okagaki, and Honorary Consul General of Hilo Art Taniguchi.

Ryota Takeda, Secretary General for the House of Representatives, Japan Diet, led the visiting delegation. Joining him was Takeshi Ogino, a deputy director in the Japan Ministry of Defense, Kimihito Aguin also of the Ministry of Defense, and Satomi Okagaki, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegation arrived in Hilo from an evacuation drill in Valparaiso, Chile involving 100,000 people. They were joined in Hilo by Yasushi Misawa, Consul General of Japan in Honolulu, and Rumi Ariyoshi of the Consul General’s office.

“We human beings cannot escape from natural disasters, but we can minimize the damage. Preparedness makes a big difference in the outcome of a disaster,” Takeda said. “I trust that our cooperation and collaboration with Hawaii will boost preparedness in years to come.”

The Japan delegation was hosted in Hilo by Hawaii County Managing Director Randy Kurohara, Civil Defense Director Ed Teixeira, Hawaii Island District Airports Manager Chauncey Wong Yuen, members of Hawaii County’s emergency management team, and Marlene Murray, Director of the Pacific Tsunami Museum.

The delegation visited the Hilo Airport Incident Command Center for a briefing on the annual tsunami evacuation drill conducted by schools in Keaukaha, which was accomplished in tandem with the November 1 statewide test of the emergency warning system. The delegation also toured Keaukaha and the tsunami-vulnerable areas of Hilo including Banyan Drive.

At the Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center the group shared a presentation of recent tsunami evacuation drills in Japan and Chile, participated in a communications exercise with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and amateur radio operators. “Today we demonstrated how we rely on important communications systems when a warning needs to go out to the public in times of emergency. We activated redundant lines of communication to the State Warning Point in Diamond Head, Oahu; the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, Oahu; and the Amateur HAM radio operators throughout the State, Pacific region, and mainland,” said Civil Defense Director Ed Teixeira.

“We hope that all we have been through will go far in making our community stronger and more prepared for disasters,” said Hawaii County Managing Director Randy Kurohara, referencing the multitude of natural disasters challenging the Hawaii Island community in the eight years since Mayor Billy Kenoi’s administration took office –  tsunami threats including one generated by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan that caused damage in West Hawaii, multiple hurricane warnings, wildfires, flooding, the dengue outbreak, Tropical Storm Iselle, and the Puna Lava Flow.

Jointly proposed by 142 nations including the U.S. and Japan, the United Nations General Assembly voted in December 2015 to designate November 5 as World Tsunami Awareness Day. This year’s observance is the first. The Assembly called on all nations and communities to observe the day to raise tsunami awareness and share approaches to risk reduction. According to Takeda, over 1,000,000 people worldwide participated in the inaugural event.

The debut World Tsunami Awareness Day focused on education and evacuation drills. Exchange students from Hilo and Waiakea schools will go to Japan to participate in a disaster risk reduction summit for high school students, November 25-26 in Kuroshio. The summit will host 350 students from 30 countries.

For more World Tsunami Awareness Day info, visit World Tsunami Awareness Video. For tsunami preparedness tips, visit http://www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl/pages/tsunami_safety.php. Sign up for Civil Defense alerts at https://countyofhawaii.bbcportal.com/.

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