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Hurricane Exercises Build Collaboration and Preparedness in Hawaii and Beyond


June 24, 2015


Stakeholders gather at the HI-EMA EOC during the annual hurricane exercise, conducted to prepare the State of Hawaii for potential impacts of tropical cyclones.

Annually, as the Central Pacific Hurricane Season kicks off, important scenario-driven exercises take place to prepare the State of Hawaii for the potential impacts of tropical cyclones. This year, with the National Weather Service (NWS) forecasting activity to be above-normal in the Central Pacific, the annual Makani Pahili Exercise played an especially valuable role in the State’s preparedness efforts.

The exercise, which took place from May 29 through June 05, was designed to facilitate the evaluation of plans, checklists, and monitoring systems—such as Pacific Disaster Center’s (PDC) DisasterAWARE system. DisasterAWARE was used in Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) throughout Hawaii to display critical information during the exercise, just as it is used during real-world events. In support of exercise activities, PDC also delivered situational awareness products to depict the ongoing hazard scenario and potential (simulated) damage, pre-exercise training sessions, and on-site liaisons at the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), Hawaii National Guard (HING), and Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA).

This exercise—called Makani Pahili, which means “strong wind” in Hawaiian—is organized by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA, previously known as Hawaii State Civil Defense). During the exercise, partner agencies practice the emergency procedures they would perform in the event of a catastrophic hurricane.

Military units from many states took advantage of the activities and scenario of Makani Pahili 2015, incorporating them as part of the broader Exercise Vigilant Guard, while similar humanitarian assistance units across the country held separate exercises under the Vigilant Guard banner.

Participants in Vigilant Guard/Makani Pahili coordinated their responses to multiple emergencies, including the simulated hurricane in Hawaii and another annual hurricane exercise in Guam, called Pakyo. The hurricane response was complicated by the addition of a disease outbreak, cyberattack, chemical spill, search and rescue, a collapsed structure, medical mass casualty, and more. The U.S.  Northern Command (NORTHCOM), PACOM and its Joint Region Marianas, tested response capabilities in conjunction with the National Guard Bureau (NGB), Hawaii National Guard (HING), and others. Hundreds of guardsmen from Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Guam joined HING in the islands to conduct the Hawaii portion of Vigilant Guard, training alongside more than 1,500 other active participants. The complex scenario was designed to stress the response systems in many different areas and test capabilities. Lessons learned from Vigilant Guard/Makani Pahili will improve readiness, coordination, and effectiveness of response to a hurricane or any disaster in the future.

Learn More:
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Read about the 2014 Makani Pahili Exercise

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About PDC:

Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) envisions a safer, more secure world—where populations live in more disaster-resilient communities informed by science and technology, and equipped with sound decision support tools. To help make that vision a reality, PDC is dedicated to supporting evidence-based disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts by providing actionable information and applications to the public and disaster managers worldwide. PDC, a program managed by the University of Hawaii, was established by the U.S. government in 1996.