By Katie Tamashiro, Honolulu District Emergency Operations Specialist
Hurricane Iniki, the most powerful hurricane to strike in Hawaii in recorded history, struck the island of Kauai at full intensity with 145 mph winds which caused $1.8 billion in damage. The Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) failed to issue tropical cyclone warnings and watches for the hurricane more than 24 hours in advance. Despite the lack of early warning, only six deaths were attributable to the storm. Damage was greatest on Kauai, where the hurricane destroyed over 1,400 houses and severely damaged over 5,000. Though not directly in the path of the hurricane’s core, Oahu still experienced damage from the wind and storm surge.
Today, many local residents and meteorological officials believe Hawaii is long overdue for a major hurricane. While some people are comfortable with the odds of dodging another one, most everyone agrees that the consequences of guessing wrong and not being prepared would be catastrophic.
The 2013 Central Pacific Hurricane season will begin June 1 in Hawaii. Are you and your family prepared for the potential arrival of a hurricane?
Your preparedness starts at home by creating a plan on what to do before a hurricane strikes and also on what you and your family need in the aftermath of a hurricane. Having a plan and knowing what to do in an emergency situation can make the difference between life and death. Don’t wait until a Hurricane Watch is issued to get ready. By then it’s too late. Here are some basic steps to follow:
1. Develop a Family Emergency Plan for Evacuation and identify a rallying point. Know the weather warning signs, safe evacuation routes and identify local shelter locations (See shelter locations web link below).
2. Create and maintain an Emergency Preparedness Checklist. This is the key to successfully weathering a hurricane or severe tropical storm. By taking time now to prepare emergency water supplies, food supplies and disaster supplies kit, you can provide for your entire family when a storm strikes.
3. Prepare a Home Survival Kit Checklist. Portable radio, batteries, flashlights/lanterns, can/bottle opener, a minimum of one gallon of water per person/day for drinking/cooking/washing and sanitation for at least five to seven days, a five to seven-day supply of non-perishable foods, needing little or no cooking and high in nutrition, an ice chest with ice/frozen ice packs, a first aid kit with special medications, matches/lighter, propane fuel/charcoal and grill, pet food, personal hygiene items, bathroom tissue, whistle (signal for help), and extra cash/traveler’s checks. Be sure to include a manual can opener and eating utensils. Avoid foods that will make you thirsty. Items should be stored in a container or containers that can be transported easily in case you need to evacuate your home. Sturdy plastic storage bins like gorilla lockers or wheeled ice chests are ideal for this.
4. Prepare an Evacuation & First Aid/Medical Kit Checklist. Similar to Home Survival Kit Checklist (above #3), with additional necessities for family members with health needs requiring medical care, list of physicians/medications (doses/schedule), Medical ID bracelets, eyeglasses/lens and solutions, dentures, medical devices w/make/model/serial #, important papers and documents (i.e. insurance and mortgage papers) in a waterproof bag. Buy or build your own First Aid Kit to include antiseptic, aspirin, bandages, adhesives, antibiotics, diarrhea medication, cough medicine, bathroom tissues and a Red Cross First Aid Guide. You may also consider adding specific, necessary prescription medicines (1 week supply).
5. Prepare for a potential power outage and/or damage to your home. An electric power outage can interrupt water, telephone, gas services and household activities like cooking and bathing.
Avoid fire/electrical hazards by turning off all electric and gas appliances with heating elements and non-essential equipment and de-energize the circuits at the fuse panel. Know what to do in an emergency situation when power lines go down or electrical fires occur.
Additionally, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) is the official source of emergency information and instructions before, during and after a hurricane and originates from the county Emergency Operating Centers as well as state and federal partners. During an emergency, a battery-, hand-crank-, or solar-powered radio will be your primary source of information. If using a battery-powered radio, be sure you have enough batteries to operate your radio for at least 48 continuous hours. Civil Defense information will also be available on cable television systems. Remember, hurricanes are very unpredictable. They can change direction and intensity very quickly. Therefore, it’s important to listen to the radio for National Weather Service advisories and Civil Defense or Department of Emergency Management information. The main radio station in an emergency in Hawaii is KSSK: AM 590 / FM 92.3.
Here are some primary web links that can assist you in preparing for the hurricane season:
Oahu Civil Defense Department of Emergency Management
Hawaiian Electric Company (Emergency Preparedness)
Oahu Hurricane Shelter list
Nixle (Text and email based emergency notification system for Oahu’s residents and visitors)
Family Disaster Planning (FEMA)
Hurricane Safety (National Weather Service/Central Pacific Hurricane Center)
American Red Cross
FEMA for kids
Animals and Emergencies
Homeowner’s Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards