Results From Today’s Civil Defense Siren Test

A test of the emergency warning siren system on Hawai‘i Island this morning was successful, with all 71 sirens islandwide sounding. Crews will be dispatched to follow up on two reports of abnormal sounding – lower than usual volume in Paukaa and shorter than usual duration in Laupahoehoe.

siren

The emergency warning siren system is just one facet of a comprehensive emergency notification strategy, which includes sounding sirens, sending phone, text, and email alerts through mass notification systems, Civil Defense messages on radio and television stations, and manual notification by Police, Fire, and Civil Air Patrol.

Residents are encouraged to not rely solely on one means of notification and to utilize as many of the tools as possible. Civil Defense recommends having a portable battery operated radio to tune in to local broadcasts, and signing up for both Civil Defense (hawaiicounty.gov/civil-defense) and Hawai‘i Police Department (hawaiipolice.com) notification systems. In the event of an emergency, every effort will be made to provide the community with timely and accurate notification and guidance.

“On behalf of the entire staff of the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency, I would like to thank the community for your patience and understanding with the continued maintenance of the siren warning system,” said Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira. “We stand behind our commitment to work with everyone to provide for a safer Hawai‘i Island.”

All But Two Civil Defense Sirens Fixed

To expedite repairs to Civil Defense warning sirens that didn’t function properly during November’s monthly siren test, State Civil Defense technicians flew to the Big Island Friday to inspect and repair four sirens on the west side of the island (Puakō, Kamehameha Park, Kahaluʻu Beach Park and Nāpoʻopoʻo).


Meanwhile, personnel from Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense and the Hawaiʻi Police Department’s Radio Shop worked through the weekend to oversee and inspect seven sirens on the east side of the island. Of those, two functioned properly (Kawailani and Paʻauilo), three were repaired over the weekend (Pāpaʻikou, ʻOʻōkala and Paradise Park and) and one (Honokaʻa) was completed Monday (November 5) by a private contractor.

State Civil Defense technicians returned to the Big Island on Monday and repaired the siren at Laupāhoehoe Point.

The two remaining sirens that are not functioning, one at Hakalau, which was knocked over in a car crash, and one at Waiaka, which has a frozen motor, require new parts and extensive work by private contractors. State Civil Defense hopes to have the Hakalau siren in operation in time for the December monthly test. A time line has not been established for the Waiaka siren.

Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense Administrator Ben Fuata said he appreciates the assistance of the Police Department and State Civil Defense for working “tirelessly” through the weekend along with his staff. “We’ve made a substantial dent in improving the efficiency and enhancing the readiness of our emergency siren alerting system,” Fuata said. “For that I am grateful and indebted to them for their service.”

Police Chief Harry S. Kubojiri added that the collaboration of the three agencies and private contractors is an example of the Police Department’s partnership with the community. “The public’s safety is our number one concern,” Kubojiri said. “That cannot be compromised.”

Commentary on Tsunami Sirens by Councilman Pete Hoffmann – “The Sounds of Silence”

Councilman Pete Hoffman

Councilman Pete Hoffmann

Last Saturday evening, we were visited once again by a frequent, if not welcomed, visitor, i.e. the threat of a tsunami. This was the third such event in the past 32 months and permitted island residents and agencies to participate in what is fast becoming an island staple, “the annual evacuation drill”. Fortunately, the threat remained exactly that. Some Saturday night festivities and events were cancelled or curtailed, many took to the roads seeking higher ground, others raced to the gas stations and local markets to ‘top off’ or stock-up (on what I’m not certain??), evacuation centers were opened, and in general residents displayed a growing non-chalance that is becoming part of the fabric of life on an island in the Pacific Ocean.

For the most part, our County first responders, Civil Defense, CERT volunteers and others performed with a degree of professionalism that comes from repeated ‘drills’. There will always be problems of some kind, and glitches will occur no matter how often the system is exercised. However, I agree with Mayor Kenoi when he notes that County personnel accomplished tasks in an outstanding fashion.

So am I the only one who remains concerned about our preparedness? In the rush to ‘pat ourselves on the back for a job well done’ I continue to question why considerable portions of our coastline with sizeable developments do not have any tsunami sirens. Why is it that after two previous tsunamis, some resort areas do not have a single siren in place? Didn’t we stress this danger last year and the year before?? Didn’t it take some legislative arm-wrestling to convince County officials that some zoning regulations need to be introduced to insure residents in those areas, most vulnerable to a tsunami have sufficient warning? Wasn’t the County supposed to follow-up with State officials to insure this situation doesn’t happen? Doesn’t this fall within the public health and safety mandates of our County government?? Despite the obvious dangers, Tsunami #3 came and there remain too many built up areas that lack a siren capability.

Do not misunderstand. A functioning siren system may not be the only or even the best warning capability. It takes, I believe, a combination of several components to provide our residents an effective early warning structure. My fear is that for some on our island, particularly along our coastlines, a siren is a critical ingredient that must be operational to provide the broad coverage so necessary for public safety. The silence along some portions of our coast is truly deafening.

Consider for a moment the timeframe involved: the February 2010 event allowed us 13+ hours lead time. The March 2011 event permitted us a seven hour warning. Last Saturday’s exercise cut that time to three hours. Does anyone see a pattern here?? My concern is that the next event may allow the County perhaps one hour or less to evacuate large numbers of people from our coastline. And knowing that our luck may finally run out, it will be in the dead of night when the visitor count is high and our snow-birds are here.

Before we “pat ourselves on the back” too much, we must return to basics. We are not as prepared as we think we are if sirens remain absent from many vulnerable areas. We are fooling ourselves if we think we are ready. We must make this deficiency a persistent and vocal objective of our County government now, not in the short-term, but immediately. Enough talk and promises. Solutions are required now and if sirens are lacking, some effective alternative must be put in place. This public health and safety shortfall cannot be permitted to exist when our next “annual tsunami drill” occurs. The sounds of silence must not continue.

Pete Hoffmann

Warning… Sirens

This is pretty cool… well at least to me.

This guy (reception73) on Oahu is putting a lot of the warning sirens on youtube.

Here is a few samples that he has posted over the years.

Was It Really Necessary to Have Two Siren Blasts Each Time?

I think the Big Island folks that were in charge of this recent tsunami evacuation did a pretty good job of keeping folks informed of things.

I will say that other islands seemed to have much more information available to them as even Mayor Mufi Hanneman was using social media to send out messages!

I understand the need to alert folks of an upcoming tsunami, but was it really necessary to blasts the sirens for as long as they did and have them doubled up like they were?

I’m still worried that at some point folks might just become a bit to complacent about the sirens.

There was a lesson to be learned in the Aesop’s Fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf“.