(BIVN) – April is Tsunami Awareness Month in Hawaiʻi, and the state’s warning siren system remains a critical method in alerting the public in advance of a natural disaster.
The system was featured in a Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency video posted by the International Tsunami Information Center in 2022.
During a recent budget hearing at the Hawaiʻi County Council, Civil Defense administrators were questioned about the functionality of siren warning system on Hawaiʻi island, and who is responsible for maintenance.
“The current logistics staff is re-looking at the program,” Civil Defense head Talmadge Magno told the council. “They want to include the counties in prioritizing which sirens are repaired faster than others.”
“They recognize that there has been sirens in critical areas, tsunami inundations areas, that have been out of service for maybe up to five years,” Magno said, “and so they’re going to address that.”
Magno said the State owns the facilities, the infrastructure, and funds the sirens. “We just support them on the basis of what we see as vulnerable,” Magno added. “When there’s repairs that we can do, or we have a runaway siren, we’ll send out staff to shut them down, see what’s what’s wrong with them. If it’s beyond our capability, then the state will send out staff to take care of it.”
A reoccurring complaint on Hawaiʻi island is that certain warning sirens do not work.
“It really starts upsetting people,” said Councilmember Cindy Evans, who represents North Hawaiʻi. “I hear about this obviously in my district.”
“I think it’s important for my colleagues – and the public – to know that every year as a state representative I would contact the State and say, what communities on the big island are you going to install sirens?” Evans said. “And I would get a list. And I would call the following year – every single year, in January – and amazingly the lists, a lot of times, stayed the same, and the sirens never got installed. So, I’m just curious about you – as our head of civil defense – how you get engaged with them on prioritizing the sirens? And the placement of sirens. Do they invite you to the table and ask you?”
“The County is involved with the any new siren Construction or installation placement,” Magno said. “So, from the beginning, they asked us – and this current administration wants to invite, include, the county as far as prioritizing.”