State of Hawaii – Emergency Management

At the state level, there are a key elements that are helpful to understand. Click the arrow to the left of each section to see more detail.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) sets standards, provides guidance, and handles a number of other functions. However the authority to manage disasters rests with the County Mayor, EMA, and those to whom they have delegated authority. (See HRS Section 127)

The Hawaii Emergency Management agency takes the lead on certain functions at the state level. HI-EMA does the following:

  • Develops and executes plans for a wide range of emergencies, including natural disasters like hurricanes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.
  • Coordinates with local, state, federal, and non-profit organizations to ensure a unified response to emergencies. This involves organizing joint exercises and drills, sharing information, and pooling resources.
  • Public Education and Outreach.
  • Emergency Alerts and Warnings.
  • Hazard Mitigation
  • Recovery Assistance
  • Resource Management

The State of Hawaii Emergency Operations Plan, often called the “Basic Plan” is an important part of the framework. It addresses many topics, including the provisioning of state resources and support for local emergency operations when requested by county officials.

Although the basic plan is targeted primarily at agencies, there are specific sections that may be relevant to understanding your role in a disaster. It is also good to know what the plan is to understand how your group falls within it. For example, the activities of your organization are likely to fall under one of the state emergency support functions. Understanding which one, and the make up of the corresponding State Emergency Support Team, combined with an understanding of the Incident Command System, can help you to understand the bigger picture of how a disaster is managed.

The Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) also has statutory and regulatory responsibilities related to the protection of public health and the environment.

The basic plan also defines 16 State Emergency Support Functions. (SESF) It organizes 16 functional groups, each with a State Emergency Support Team. (SERT) See Section 11, of the April 2022 EOP, page 90 for a comprehensive list. Keep in mind that the chain of command for any specific incident is organized by the County. Your organizations interface is not likely to involve the SERT directly, unless your organization was brought in directly by HI-EMA or another state agency.

It is helpful to understand the big picture of the entire chain of command, so that during an after action review, you can compare the plan against actual events and better understand where improvements can be made.