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Missouri emergency management official to aid volcano relief effort

State Emergency Management Agency Chief of Operations Terry Cassil, left, met with Gov. Mike Parson before a two-week deployment to Hawai'i as part of volcano relief efforts there. (Photo courtesy: Governor's office)

SEMA's chief of operations on Wednesday said it's an honor to join volcano relief efforts in Hawaii.

Terry Cassil will leave on Thursday morning for a two-week deployment as a safety officer in Hilo, Hawaii. Cassil said his deployment is unusual as out-of-state assets that get sent to the islands usually come from the West Coast due to their closer proximity. He said this is the first time any assets from Missouri have been sent to Hawaii to assist with volcano relief efforts there.

"It's an honor to be selected, and it's also very humbling," he said.

Emergency personnel on Hawai'i's Big Island have been battling a lava fissure from the Kilauea volcano for more than two months. The flow has destroyed more than 700 homes and now covers an area roughly half the size of Manhattan.

Cassil's deployment is part of a program called the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, or EMAC. If a disaster overtaxes a state's resources, Cassil said it can request specific kinds of help from other states. Cassil said he put his name in as a potential safety officer earlier this summer. On Sunday, he learned Hawaii officials had asked for his assistance.

"We're helping our neighbors," he said. "Even though our neighbors might be thousands of miles away, they're still our neighbors, and we need to step up and help out whenever we can."

Cassil will be on Hawaii's Big Island from July 20th to August 2nd. During that time, he said he will take part in daily planning meetings at 5:30 a.m., which will take into account overnight developments and plan out that day's response. Cassil said his duties will include ensuring all emergency personnel working around the lava flow have the correct equipment and follow proper safety procedures.

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