Podcast: Resilience Roundtable

Planning for Volcanic Activity in Hawaii

In 2018, eruptions from the Kīlauea volcano caused widespread devastation to Hawaii's Big Island. It decimated more than 700 structures and uprooted more than 3,000 people. Resilience Roundtable host Jim Schwab, FAICP, talks with Douglas Le, AICP, disaster recovery officer with the ‎County of Hawaii, to learn about the particularities of volcanic eruptions — a natural hazard few planners deal with.

"This is [residents'] home. The eruption doesn't change that. ... Folks have the mindset that, 'I understand that Pele [Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes] may come, the eruption may happen again, I may lose my home. If I can get twenty years out of it, fiften years out of it — for me, the benefit of being able to cultivate this land is there.' And that's a very honest perspective."

—Douglas Le, disaster recovery officer, County of Hawaii, on a common viewpoint he hears from community members living in high-eruption-risk areas

Douglas explains their unique geological nature, but he also describes concerns of postdisaster recovery that will be familiar to planners everywhere, such as helping residents who lost their homes get access to the funding they need to rebuild.

Guiding much of the county's recovery work is the Kīlauea Recovery and Resilience Plan, the overarching strategy that was released in late 2020 and features in Jim and Douglas's discussion. Throughout the conversation, Douglas underscores the balance that planners must strike to help provide immediate relief to residents while looking to the future, to make the entire community as strong as possible.

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