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Non-Fleet Police Vehicles Helpful in Tsunami Response

March 11, 2010

Police on the island of Hawaii are crediting their use of private subsidized cars, rather than a county-owned fleet of marked vehicles, for their efficient evacuation during a tsunami warning on Feb. 27, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

Assistant Police Chief Henry Tavares said an entirely county-owned fleet likely wouldn't have provided officers enough vehicles for a wide-spread response during an impending natural disaster. A magnitude-8.8 earthquake off Chile triggered a tsunami forecast to hit the Big Island coastline.

If the department had gone to county-owned fleet vehicles, a maximum of 20 police cars would have been available to officers at the Kona Police Station during the evacuation.

Police and the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers union have long opposed switching subsidized personal cars outfitted with blue dome lights to an entirely county-owned marked fleet.

The only way police could have undertaken a tsunami evacuation similar to the Feb. 27 event with marked fleet cars, each officer would have to drive a marked fleet car that is kept at their homes while off duty, similar to how officers already do with their subsidized personal cars.

Police Major Paul Kealoha said that if the department had gone to a totally marked fleet its plans would have had to be modified greatly.

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