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Emergency ops center dedicated at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The maile lei is untied for the opening of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor Emergency Operations Center.

The maile lei is untied for the opening of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor Emergency Operations Center. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Baron Sekiya)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

Emergency crews will have a jump start on the next disaster to strike a national park across the Pacific.

Approximately 100 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park officials and guests were on hand Friday to dedicate a $5.8 million emergency operations center that consolidates visitor services and resource protection operations into one state-of-the-art building.

The 4,896-square-foot building was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will serve as headquarters for law enforcement and eruption rangers, fire managers, medical staff and dispatchers of the Pacific Area Communication Center.

The communication center serves all eight national parks in Hawaii, as well as those Guam, American Samoa and Saipan.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Dispatcher Annette Thornberry demonstrates the communications system used between the National Parks on the Big Island and in the Pacific like Guam.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Dispatcher Annette Thornberry demonstrates the communications system used between the National Parks on the Big Island and across the Pacific, including Guam. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Baron Sekiya)

It will be the park command center during volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, hurricanes, air accidents, and search and rescues, Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said.

“Because a lot of the response in emergency situations revolves around the dispatch center and this just put all of us right where we need to be,” Chief Ranger Talmadge Magno said. “It makes us that much more response-ready, which can be critical.”

Quince Mento, Hawaii County Civil Defense Director.

Quince Mento, Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Baron Sekiya)

Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency Administrator Quince Mento said good communication between authorities is crucial during emergency situations and can mean the difference between life and death.

The center will allow county and park authorities to coordinate and communicate effectively and efficiently “when bad stuff is happening,” Mento said.

County and park personnel already work well together at the county viewing area in Kalapana, where 200,000 to 250,000 visitors trek over lava fields to catch a glimpse of the raw power of nature.

“I’m biased because I think we do it better than anyone else in the state,” he added. “That said, I hope it doesn’t get used that much.”

Clear domes pipe sunlight for illumation into the The maile lei is untied for the opening of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor Emergency Operations Center to save energy. The building also has an air filtration system to deal with dangerous levels of volcanic fumes.

Clear domes pipe sunlight for illumination into the The maile lei is untied for the opening of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor Emergency Operations Center to save energy. The building also has an air filtration system to deal with dangerous levels of volcanic fumes. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Baron Sekiya)

The center qualifies for platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status, National Park Service project manager Andrea Vaughn said, even though the design and construction faced the unique challenges and obstacles of building in the midst of two active volcanoes.

The building was designed to use energy and water efficiently, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve indoor environmental quality.

An air-filtration system will keep the building safe during times of elevated levels of sulfur dioxide.

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor Emergency Operations Center.

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor Emergency Operations Center. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Baron Sekiya)

However, Honolulu-based architect Katie Slocumb said she was able to incorporate huge logs carved from ohia trees cleared from the construction site, as well as lava. The building’s design and look fit and make best use of the forest setting.

It includes training and conference rooms, as well as an interview room and holding cell for investigative purposes.

Orlando said it takes many hands and many hearts to operate such a big park and she appreciates the effort that went into building, which houses a communication center named for park ranger killed in the line of duty.

Steve Makuakane-Jarrell was shot and killed while alone on duty Dec. 12, 1999 at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.

The last major construction in the park was the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in the early 1980s, Orlando said. The park was established in 1916 and welcomes 1.5 million visitors each year.

— Find out more:
www.nps.gov/havo

A ho‘okupu (gift) wrapped in ti leaf and a maile lei across the entrance of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor Emergency Operations Center.

A ho‘okupu (gift) wrapped in ti leaf and a maile lei across the entrance of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor Emergency Operations Center. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Baron Sekiya)


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Video by Baron Sekiya, Hawaii247.com | Voice of Tim Bryan

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