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Ocean safety chief Jim Howe selected to lead city’s Emergency Services department


    Jim Howe in Waikiki with lifeguards Josh Rossen and Robert Boughton in 2013.

Longtime city ocean safety chief Jim Howe was chosen to be Honolulu’s new director of the Department of Emergency Services.

The department oversees both ocean safety and emergency services, including ambulance operations.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell made the announcement in a press release Tuesday. Howe starts the job March 1 in a designee capacity pending confirmation by the Honolulu City Council.

Howe replaces Mark Rigg, who resigned at the end of last year after holding the job since shortly after Caldwell was sworn-in as mayor in January 2013.

Howe has more than 35 years of experience in emergency operations and risk management. For 20 years, beginning in 1995, he served as chief of lifeguard operations. He also served as chief of the department’s Ocean Safety Division from January-October 2014.

Most recently, Howe has served as an ocean safety consultant around the world, including to those who help refugees who take to treacherous ocean waters after fleeing from war, poverty or persecution.

The press release credited Howe with being instrumental in the creation of the city’s personal watercraft rescue program along with fellow lifeguard Brian Keaulana. The program has saved countless lives and is being used by ocean rescuers around the world, the release said.

Howe has authored publications on rescue operations, and he belongs to a number of groups and organizations dedicated to improving ocean safety both in and outside of Hawaii.

He was the incorporating officer for the nonprofit Hawaiian Lifeguard Association when it formed in 1991, and he has worked as an ocean safety instructor at various University of Hawaii campuses across the state.

He participates in several community efforts, including serving as chairman of the State of Hawaii Drowning and Aquatic Injury Prevention Advisory Committee.

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