Frequently asked questions and answers

HI-DARRT, or Hawaii Island Disaster Response and Recovery Team, is a coalition of organizations who provide services to survivors of disasters on Hawaii Island.

No. HI-DARRT is a permanent coalition. During times of no active disaster response or recovery effort, HI-DARRT will focus its efforts on preparedness.

No. We are a coalition of member organizations including non-profits, churches, companies, and government agencies, but we are not a registered 501(c)3.

No, but religious groups are welcome to join, as long they do not use religious participation as a requirement for receiving aid.

Visit our Contact Us page. You’ll receive a reply from a member of our Communication team. They may be a volunteer from a member organization, so don’t be surprised to receive a reply from an email address that is not @hidarrt.org.

We’d love to talk about how we can work together. Please fill out a membership application.

Submit your request here, and someone from our Communication team will get back to you.

Yes, HI-DARRT is free, both for membership organizations and for applicants for help.

The County of Hawai’i established a formal Disaster Assistance and Recovery Group as an application of lessons learned from 2014 Tropical Storm (TS) Iselle.

One lesson from TS Iselle was that the County  needs to take on a greater role in the social services response to the relief and recovery from a disaster, rather than depend solely on the volunteerism of the American Red Cross and other local and national volunteer organizations. Moreover, because of Hawai’i’s high cost-of-living, it is not uncommon for residents to have two or three jobs, which makes finding an adequate number of regular volunteers very challenging.

Hawai’i Red Cross CEO Coralie Matayoshi stated in a recent panel discussion that “key county level employees need to have the same skill set as American Red Cross volunteers because there are simply not enough volunteers to manage all the shelters.”  County officials also agree that the county, along with the local disaster response network, should take the lead in the immediate disaster response, under the direction of the emergency operation center (EOC), otherwise known as the Hawai’i County Civil Defense.

The County also realized the need for equal representation, along with non-profit agencies and the interfaith community, in all matters related to the social services response. This means that intake information should be managed carefully and shared amongst the local social service entities responsible for immediate response.

Lastly, the county recognizes that volunteers, too, have their own individual needs and personal responsibilities relating to disaster response, and that we should ensure that what we ask of them shouldn’t lead them to neglect these needs. As such, the county identified the need for a long-term, stable, and locally-based workgroup, comprised of local residents, who can commit to a minimum two-year term, so that we can mobilize easily and immediately when called upon.

VOAD, Faith Hui, and HI-DARRT are distinct but overlapping groups that support disaster response and recovery. This can best be illustrated by a three-circle diagram, with each circle having its own specialization, and a collaborative overlap with the other groups. Where the circles representing each group overlap is where we, collectively, deliver resources for response and recovery. An effective response includes 3Ms – Money, Muscle, and Materials. Each entity has its own unique approach and role in making these resources accessible.

The East Hawai’i Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster, known as VOAD, is currently led by Suzie Bond who provides the volunteer link to the Hawai’i County Civil Defense as well as to State and national VOAD organizations. VOAD has played a critical role in recent disasters by–providing the immediate Muscle, such as crisis cleanup and volunteerism at the resource center.  It’s important to note that some of the over 50+ National and state VOAD member organizations are in the county such as Am. Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, Team Rubicon, Baptists, and Catholic Charities. Some members are represented by local faith-based organization such as the LDS Church representing LDS Charities. 

VOAD members at all jurisdiction levels self-identify their activity preferences and VOAD’s platform, Points of Consensus,  helps to coordinate activities and facilitate collaboration to avoid duplication of services and reduce the need to resolve challenges. National and state partners include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and State Voluntary Agency Liaisons (VALs). VOAD maintains a presence in all counties, so support can come from the other counties, state, and national VOAD.  For example, Hurricane Lane Crisis Cleanup (NVOAD) calls were staffed by members of the LDS Charities/Church (Kauai VOAD) and the Scientology Church (state VOAD). 

The Faith Hui is a consortium of faith leaders  facilitated by Pastor Dion Maeda of Connect Point Church (ICIA). The ICIA, as an established multi-faith religious organization, provides a lot of the logistical support behind the scenes including using their website and email lists to communicate to the public and the larger religious community. Because the Faith Hui volunteers live on island, they can provide quick and immediate support without the need for logistics such as lodging or transportation, and its members are locally informed and culturally responsive. Faith Hui fills the gaps that the national volunteer groups such as American Red Cross and National VOAD cannot provide or cannot provide in a timely manner. Services include packing and moving, home repair, pastoral counseling, laundry services, feeding, child care, and shelter entertainment.

Some VOAD members are also faith based such as the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities. Given that these VOAD members are, at times, interested in social issues that the Faith Hui wants to address, they opt to participate in both the Faith Hui and VOAD. 

Hawai’i Island Disaster Response and Recovery Team, or HI-DARRT, is a coalition of organizations who provide services to survivors of disasters on Hawai’i Island. HI-DARRT is led by Government and Non-Government Co-Chairs, and has direct access to a network of government, non-profit sector, community-based, and faith-based entities that work together to identify and develop a coordinated response to disaster response and recovery.  HI-DARRT also has direct access to State and County officials responsible for staffing shelters and local officials responsible for immediate response as well as short- (1-12 months) and long-term (1-10yrs) recovery. HI-DARRT can also facilitate the pass through of “money” via local financial entities like the Hawai’i Island United Way and Hawai’i Community Foundation. HI-DARRT also provide “muscle” and “materials” through the use of emergency county employees as well as the ability to utilize non-profit and interfaith resources.  VOAD and the Faith Hui are also part of HI-DARRT.

The ICIA, as an established multi-faith religious organization, provided a lot of the logistical support behind the scenes including using their website and email list to communicate out to the public and larger religious community.

Along these lines, there are many commonalities of all three groups, such as:

They are all networks and, essentially, function as volunteers. None of them are employed by the network.

– Each member organization has their own chain of command that voluntarily decides to participate, their own mission and policies, self-identified activities and goals, and accountability requirements.

-Member organizations of each network have found it helpful to share information, work collaboratively so they have staff or volunteers attend the group/network meetings.

-Member organizations elect the leadership team that facilitates communication, cooperation, collaboration and coordination for the group/network.

-Member organizations have resources (3 Ms) that facilitate delivery of services; the group/network does not provide direct services.

After a disaster, the initial response is to conduct a damage assessment, currently led by Hawai’i County Civil Defense Coordinator Bill Hanson. Mr. Hanson brings the American Red Cross, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), County Housing staff, and an appraiser from the County together in teams to survey selected areas. American Red Cross assesses the amount of support needed to determine their level of involvement. CERTs assess the extent of damages incurred and complete the universal social needs intake that is then triaged by HI-DARRT. The county Housing staff and County appraiser assess the monetary degree of damages and place an estimated dollar value that gets reported to the Mayor to justify recovery funding.

Concurrently, VOAD organizes the crisis cleanup program and solicits volunteers to help at shelters or information centers. The county’s Civil Defense Agency identifies shelters where residents can reside as they ride out (or recover) from the disaster. The American Red Cross manages the shelters with the help of the county’s Parks and Recreation staff. Salvation Army arranges shelter food services along with a distribution center to give out items such as clothes, water and other necessary household items like toiletries. The Food Basket, Hawai`i Island’s Food Bank works with the Salvation Army to ensure survivors have food, water and supplies. Social service resources are then triaged by HI-DARRT, VOAD, and the Faith Hui working together.

The CERT Program is (currently) led by Hawai’i County Civil Defense Coordinator Bill Hanson. The CERTs are made up of individual volunteers who are trained in basic disaster response, fire safety, light rescue, team and responder coordination, and basic medical care. They are called upon to take part in the immediate response helping the county survey the damages following a disaster as well as helping at the incident command centers, information centers, helping with the placards program, and other areas were volunteers are needed.

Each District has CERT teams including: Hamakua, Laupahoehoe, Paauilo, Hawaiian Ocean View Estates, North Kohala, Palisades, Fern Forest, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Kalani Honua, Leilani Estates, Volcano Village, Hilo Bayfront, Hawaiian Federal First CU, Keaukaha, Puako, Waikoloa Village, Waimea, University of the Nations, and Milolii.

An emergency operations center (EOC), also known as Civil Defense, is a central command and control facility responsible for carrying out the principles of emergency preparedness and emergency management, or disaster management functions at a strategic level during an emergency. An EOC is responsible for determining strategic direction and operational decisions and does not normally directly control field assets, instead leaving tactical decisions to lower commands. The common functions of EOCs are to collect, gather and analyze data; make decisions that protect life and property; maintain continuity of the organization within the scope of applicable laws; and disseminate those decisions to all concerned agencies and individuals.

At the EOC, the major players are the first responders which include the mayor, Civil Defense staff, Police, Fire, National Guard, Public Works, county and state Highways, Housing, Water department, utility and telephone companies, HELCO, harbors, Parks and Recreation, volcanologist, state and federal partners, state Department of Health, and a number of volunteer organizations including CERTs, American Red Cross, VOAD, and the Salvation Army.

National volunteer organization such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other entities have their own organizational structure and protocols on accepting and releasing funds. These organizations also dictate how their donations are given to survivors, which may not meet the needs of HI-DARRT.

For example, during the Kilauea eruption aftermath, the biggest gap was in the work force capacity. All of the social service agencies were already at capacity and there were no extra staff members to do the remaining work. At this time, HI-DARRT asked if the donations given to the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc. could be used to staff temporary positions and the answer was no. However, through the Hawai’i Community Foundation donations were used to hire temporary workers for non-profit organizations that needed more employees to handle the influx of cases resulting from the eruption.

As a result, the following agencies were able to hire much-needed staff: Neighborhood Place of Puna (case managers), HOPE Services (housing navigator), Catholic Charities (financial and rent assistance coordinator), BISAC (counselor), The Food Basket (disaster relief coordinator, driver and warehouseman), Legal Aide (legal counselor), Child and Family Services (social worker), Habitat for Humanity (home repair specialist), and Hawai’i Community Assets (housing specialists). This is why we have encouraged financial donations to be made directly to Hawai’i Community Foundation or the Hawai’i Island United Way because these funds have greater flexibility and can be used to fill the gap’s immediately without the need for approval from the national or state level volunteer agency administrators.

No, the Hawai’i County Research and Development (R&D) long-term recovery group is not the same as HI-DARRT. The Mayor appointed the R&D Director, currently Diane Ley, as Recovery Manager such that the long-term (1-10yrs) recovery initiative will be led by R&D. R&D’s stated mission is to advance knowledge and innovation to make Hawai’i County a great place to live, work, and visit.

R&D informs planning, policy, and programmatic decision-making with data-driven research, and collaborates in the development and funding of initiatives seeking environmental, community, and economic sustainability. R&D also promotes programs related to: agriculture, energy, tourism, economic development, and community development. As these are the areas that are most impacted by a disaster, they require the most attention with regard to long-term recovery.

That being said, the recovery team and larger effort require the active collaboration of many stakeholders utilizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Recovery Support Functions (RSF) Framework, working closely with relevant County departments and federal and state agencies such as FEMA and its state counterpart, HI-EMA. The RSF’s listed below comprise the coordinating structure for key functional areas of assistance in the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF). This framework helps to support local government by facilitating problem solving, improving access to resources, and fostering coordination among stakeholders at County, State (HI-EMA) and Federal (FEMA) levels as well as with non-governmental and key community stakeholders.

•           Community Planning and Capacity Building
•           Health and Social Services
•           Housing
•           Infrastructure Systems
•           Natural and Cultural Resources

Community-based stakeholders and coalitions/networks such as HI-DARRT are essential to the recovery process and will continue to participate with R&D by providing recommendations for the social and human service long-term needs of survivors. Examples within the scope of the recovery effort include but are not limited to:

  • Identifying short, medium, and long-term housing solutions for lava evacuees
  • Securing funding resources for individual and public assistance initiatives
  • Providing information and training resources to support entrepreneurship and economic growth

Building community engagement for recovery from and resilience to future events.

The State is the central to collecting information and assessing the problem, and then deciding the course of action to take. In other words, the State Office of Emergency Management is the quarterback, in assessing the situation and directing activities accordingly. In an emergency, t he State determines the emergency management needs and capabilities of its political subdivisions and then channels state and federal resources to local government, including training and technical assistance, as well as operational support.

Authority over and responsibility for emergency management at the State level rest with the Governor or his or her designated representative. The powers that are typically vested in the Governor are: suspend state statutes, procure materials and facilities, direct evacuations, authorize release of emergency funds, activate emergency funds and reallocate state agency budgets for emergency work, issue state or area declarations and invoke appropriate state response, apply for and monitor federal disaster and emergency assistance.

The County has the primary responsibility for emergency response, but there are times that a disaster overwhelms the County’s capacity for effective response. The State Office of Emergency Management operations function includes activities that are essential to a coordinated response in support of a local jurisdiction. When a disaster occurs, the county and state EOC becomes activated, and the Governor or authorized representative mobilizes and deploys state personnel, equipment and resources to the disaster scene in support of County government.

FEMA is the agency that serves as the principal point of contact within the Federal Government for emergency management activities. As the Federal coordinator of emergency management activities, it is FEMA’s task to pull these resources together. In a partnership with the State and County government, FEMA supports their preparedness efforts by providing national program operations. The State and County are encouraged to prepare a multi-year development plan followed by annual plan increments to establish an Integrated Emergency Management System.

  1. Local/County governments seek assistance from State
  2. State Emergency Operations Center Activated
  3. Governor declares a State of Emergency
  4. FEMA Regional Director notified
  5. Governor requests Presidential Declaration (of emergency)
  6. FEMA director contacted and advises President Catastrophic Disaster Response Group, Emergency Support Team and Other Federal Agencies alerted.
  7. President Declares Emergency/Major Disaster
  8. Federal Coordinating Officer appointed, State Coordinating Officer assigned
  9. Disaster Field Office established (supports emergency response team).