Friday, March 14, 2014

Hawaii "Ill-Prepared" For Disasters AKA We Are Responsible For Our Own Safety

So what else is new?

Just because this is the most geographically isolated major city on the planet shouldn't push our beloved elected leaders to take responsibility for taking care of the proles, nor any reason for them to hammer it into we Noble Proles' heads that we are responsible for our own safety during and after a disaster.

I missed a conference this week on disaster preparedness in Hawaii, but it looks like there was little which isn't already fairly obvious.

Bill Thomas, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Services Center said before the conference that:
The Hawaiian Islands are generally ill-prepared to respond to vulnerabilities like floods, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, tsunamis, pandemics and hurricanes, or the coastal erosion, subsidence and ecological change that threatens its coasts...

"Our aging infrastructure is coastal. Our food and energy supply is challenging. What happens if the harbor goes down?".
Good question. I'd say we would be in deep kim chee.

Allison Schaefers has more in the Honolulu Star Advertiser's pre-conference story, but it is behind a paywall.Here, if you can.

I went to a Disaster Preparedness Fair in Waialua last Saturday. It was interesting to see, but not sure it will have much impact on our prepping.

It was set up by the Honolulu Department of Emergency Management, which did not appear to have made much effort to include any actual vendors. The only profit seeking company there was Simpson Strong Ties (they make hurricane/earthquake clips to hold a house together). Other than that all the groups were either government or the Red Cross.

I thought that was a real shame as people who were interested enough to go to the fair would have benefited from having the local vendors available to sell supplies and gear, or at least to hand out flyers and demo what they have available.

I did write an email later to Be Ready, a local store which specializes in disaster prep gear, and sent them a copy of the email flyer I got, suggesting they contact HDEM about future fairs. Hard to believe they weren't involved because they seem to be the only specialist company here.

One of the pamphlets I picked up turned out to be excellent: "Homeowner's Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards" by Dennis Hwang & Darren Okimoto, published by the UH Sea Grant College Program. They made a big effort to make a useful, Hawaii-specific, guide to prepping for hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis, and had a good section dispelling myths about why people should not be bothered. I hadn't known before that between 1819 and 1975 we had damaging tsunamis on average every 6 years, nor that hurricanes doing damage hit about every 15 years. I knew they were real problems, but not the actual frequencies.

The great section of the pamphlet was on how to upgrade a house to withstand winds and earthquakes. Lots of good, clear instructions on the various options, both commercial and do it yourself. The guys who researched and wrote it should be proud.

I talked with the rep from the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, and he reinforced what I had gotten from them via email last fall: Our water system is highly vulnerable. I had found out that they don't have enough emergency generators to power the system, but now I learned that the emergency generators total four. For a system which is the sole provider of drinking water for over 900,000 people who cannot drive 75 miles to some place which does have water. They may be able to provide water trucks which people can walk or drive to with buckets. May. Shades of "American Blackout".

I was told last fall that the system pumps and the generators they do have may not survive because they are not in hurricane proof buildings, and Saturday the rep agreed that if a lot of houses are destroyed, the laterals would be snapped off and leaking, so the system could not be refilled until the cut off valves were dug out and closed. What happens when the water has been off for four days? People start dying. Swimming pools would be really important. Yeah.

I think the best thing BWS could do is put a warning in every monthly water bill. "We cannot guarantee you will have water after a hurricane. You need to take responsibility. A three day supply is not enough."

Honolulu Fire Department had a booth and I had a good talk with a couple of their guys. We got talking about hurricane preps and they were adamant that "people need to take responsibility for themselves because we are not going to be there to help." They will be too busy with the biggest problems to help with smaller ones, even if the phone system works.

I mentioned that an acquaintance had been one of the responders to Hurricane Katrina and had come back absolutely freaked by what he saw. I started telling the firemen that he had said "Everybody needs food", they nodded, "water", they nodded, "a chainsaw", they nodded, and "a 12 gauge shotgun." At the "shotgun" one of them practically exploded in agreement. Said "No one is going to be there to protect your family or your supplies. No One. YOU have to take responsibility for your own protection. YOU." He could not have been any more clear. I don't know if that is the official policy of the HFD (probably not), but it sure was his.

I mentioned our 55 gallon water barrel and he wanted to know where he could get one. A real shame Be Ready wasn't there.

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