From active volcanoes to earthquakes and tsunamis, the islands of Hawaii are vulnerable to a wide variety of disasters. And in the event of a large-scale natural or man-made disaster, the soldiers of the Hawaii National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) team are ready to respond.
We spoke with SFC Bal, Jay Jovyryan, of the Hawaii National Guard to understand how AlertMedia’s emergency mass notification system helps them communicate with their volunteer guardsmen and improve their disaster readiness capabilities.
1. What is your role, Jay?
“I manage Operations and IT for the Surf Team here at the Hawaii National Guard. I make sure everyone is certified, trained, and where they need to be.”
2. Tell me about the Hawaii National Guard. Is your organization made up of mostly volunteers?
“Yes. The team is made up of volunteers, so we are very decentralized. We conduct quarterly trainings and twice-a-year collectives to make sure everyone is available and prepared to help if a disaster occurs. For those collectives we call in all our key leaders and personnel to complete a disaster-response exercise. I am in charge of coordinating those trainings and making sure everyone is where they need to be.”
3. How did you recognize you needed a mass notification system?
“Those trainings and collectives require us to keep consistent contact with our volunteers. We need all our soldiers to know where the next collective is, and we need to know that we have up-to-date contact information for each of our soldiers. If we didn’t have AlertMedia, we would just have to call the soldiers one by one.”
4. Is that what you were doing before—calling each soldier individually?
“Sometimes. We mainly used a mass texting provider. But we would send the message and then we were cut off. The soldiers couldn’t communicate back to us. And we had no way of knowing if their contact information was outdated. AlertMedia allows soldiers to respond to us with their availability and it also tells us if a message was not delivered. Then we know who is available, who we need to follow up with, and who has inaccurate contact information.”
5. Was the National Guard able to use AlertMedia in handling the active Kilauea volcano?
“AlertMedia was critical in our providing timely response to the volcano. We have 203 active soldiers, and then we have our bench. But our volunteers are all on different islands. With the volcano, we needed to notify each of our active soldiers to see where they were and find out if they were available to help on the big island. Then if someone said they were not available—they might be out of the country, in school, or have a medical issue—I could initiate a new alert to our bench personnel to see if they were available.”
6. Are you still dealing with the volcano?
“We are. At this point we are mainly focused on air monitoring—checking if there are chemicals in the air. Volcanic chemicals make it difficult to breathe; it can be dangerous. So we monitor the air to make sure it is safe for the community. On one hand, we want to be as cautious as possible. But on the other, people want to be back in their homes. So we set up checkpoints to make sure no one is returning home before it is safe. Then when it is safe, we give them the all clear. We also monitor any sudden shifts in air direction, because that can create a new threat and we need to know as soon as that is the case.”
7. Are you able to utilize dynamic groups in AlertMedia when you are coordinating with your volunteers?
“Yes. I have different groups set up in AlertMedia by training. The different missions and different equipment we use at the National Guard require various types of training. Obviously, not all our volunteers have every type of training. So for each assignment, I can message exclusively the soldiers who have the training to complete that task. “
8. Were there any other disaster response events where you were glad you had AlertMedia?
“Several months back, we had bad flooding in Kauai. It came on extremely quickly, so we did not have much time to coordinate a response. There was a flight scheduled to go out at 11:00 in the morning, so we sent out a message at 7:30 to all the soldiers who were surf-water trained—asking if they could respond right away. The soldiers were able to report to the unit within a two-hour period and then deploy to the island. Before we had AlertMedia, we would have tried to call each of those volunteers individually.”
9. Do you use the AlertMedia mobile app?
“Yes. I am not always at my desk or computer when an emergency comes up. I often need to send a message after work hours or in the middle of the night. The mobile app allows me to create and send notifications from my phone whenever a crisis emerges, which is crucial when you need to get the word out quickly.”
The Hawaii National Guard is one of a growing number of organizations around the world relying on AlertMedia’s two-way emergency communication software to keep its people safe, informed, and connected when it matters most. Seconds count in emergency situations, and regardless of where its soldiers are located, what they’re doing, or what device they’re using, the Hawaii National Guard can ensure everyone gets the messages they need, when they need them.
For Jay, having a modern emergency mass notification system allows him to keep a pulse on the availability of all of the Hawaii National Guard’s soldiers so that he can rapidly execute emergency response activities. With AlertMedia, the Hawaii National Guard is able to efficiently mobilize personnel and resources when disaster strikes to keep Hawaii’s residents safe and protected.