Ken Arima

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Ken Arima says regarding the occurrence of an emergency situation. Although he recognizes the gravity of that statement, there’s a sense of calm as Arima speaks – like he has fully accepted the idea that a natural disaster will strike one day. That underlying calm he possesses is probably because he is prepared for the worst.

Not far from where he’s sitting at his dining room table, he’s got an ample stock of water, rice and canned foods, flashlights, weapons and other supplies stored away.

Ken Arima

Arima, a general contractor who grew up in Kalihi, has been providing free presentations on emergency preparedness voluntarily to church members, schools, community groups and businesses since 1987. He first began by speaking at his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and over the years also has volunteered on behalf of state organizations. He offers five different levels of workshops, from an introduction on the bare essentials you will need to survive to more-advanced material such as improving the structural integrity of your home and longer-term food storage.

Arima’s supply may sound intimidating, but he recommends that people start with at least three weeks’ worth of goods and work their way up gradually. He also recommends making preparations to last for one year, in part “because we are going to have to share. We cannot lock our doors to our neighbors who might not be prepared,” he says.

But Arima’s course isn’t your regular classroom. To help people remember the information, he approaches the topic in creative ways: Sometimes he sings and sometimes he runs around the room sporting a 40-pound backpack to demonstrate an evacuation situation.

In addition to his presentations, he also helps his neighbors, friends, family and church members prepare. Later that day, Arima was to assist a group in vacuum sealing 50-pound bags of rice, which can increase storage capacity.

“My ultimate goal is this: for each individual to not be a burden on someone else, but to be able to lift someone’s burden,” Arima says. “I get a sense of extreme satisfaction knowing that whatever happens, I am ready and I am prepared. And I will take care of my neighbors, and it gives me satisfaction to know that they are also OK.”

Arima also discusses preparedness with his neighbors. But what does he do if they don’t heed his words of wisdom?

“It’s OK, because it tells me that instead of two water barrels, I need four,” he says.

To book Ken Arima to speak to your group, email