This is your Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Monday Musings from Melinda by LHS Contributor Melinda M.

Civil Defense? Never heard of it. Never thought about it. Never had any experience with it.

Until I moved to Hilo. (Click here to read post about growing up in Hilo.)

Now, I came to Hilo after living in Honolulu for 8 years and I swear I don’t remember Civil Defense being as much a part of the fabric of my life there as it is here. From flood watches to flood warnings, from hurricane watches to hurricane warnings; from dengue fever outbreak reports to lava flow information updates and the most attention-getting of all, tsunami warnings, we get them all and we get them often. So often, in fact, that when my kids were younger and heard the sound of a conch shell being blown at a hula performance on tv, they asked: “Mommy, is that Civil Defense?”

What they were thinking of was the blaring horn of Emergency Broadcast System which precedes a message from Civil Defense. Those are delivered by an official with a calm, steady voice, “This is your Hawaii County Civil Defense with an information update on [insert name of approaching natural disaster].”

Someone commented on one of my earlier posts that being from Hilo means being connected to the land and these near-weekly interruptions over the radio or monthly interruptions over the sirens (first Monday of every month at 11:45 am!) remind us just how connected to the land we really are. We even have a whole museum downtown focused entirely on a natural disaster and Hilo’s history with it: The Pacific Tsunami Museum!! Oh, and one in the National Park on our history with volcanoes!

Even if you are not an “outdoorsy” person, even if you live as city-like as possible in this little town by the bay, there are constant reminders that nature is in charge here, that is is a strong undercurrent of our lives.

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Know your plan for your pets.

And you’ve got to be prepared! Prepared during hurricane season (June to November!). Prepared for a tsunami, for which there is no season. Prepared for a flash flood that could keep you from getting home. And prepared for an earthquake, which we experience often. Stores have tsunami warnings posted at their entrance, kids practice earthquake drills at school, adults have apps on their phones. Once, while waiting to take off from Hilo, the whole plane went off like a giant alarm when everyone’s phone simultaneously blared the horn from their Civil Defense app, warning about some impending weather-related event.

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Know the evacuation zones.

There are blizzard and white-out warnings for the road up to Mauna Kea, high surf and small craft warnings, and air quality warnings when the vog – volcanic fog – is so thick that those with respiratory problems need to stay indoors.By and large of course, Hilo is a safe place to live. And now that I am quite familiar with Civil Defense, I know how to stay safe when nature gets out of control.

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