“Lahaina Fire: Residents Question Hawaii’s Emergency Warning System as Wildfire Claims Lives”

By | August 11, 2023

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Residents of Maui, Hawaii, are questioning why the state’s emergency warning system failed to alert them as a devastating wildfire tore through the area, killing at least 53 people. The state boasts a large outdoor warning system with about 400 sirens, but many survivors said they did not hear any alerts and only became aware of the danger when they saw flames or heard explosions. Emergency management records do not show that the sirens were triggered. Instead, emergency alerts were sent to mobile phones, televisions, and radio stations, but it is unclear if they were received due to power and cellular outages. TY O’NEIL, CLAIRE RUSH, JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER and REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press reported

Residents of Lahaina, Maui, were left questioning why Hawaii’s emergency warning system failed to alert them as wildfires approached their homes. Despite having a large network of sirens positioned across the island chain, records show that no sirens were triggered before the devastating wildfire broke out. Many survivors reported that they only became aware of the danger when they saw flames or heard explosions nearby. The lack of real-time information was attributed to power and cell phone outages earlier in the day. The fire, fueled by dry conditions and strong winds from Hurricane Dora, quickly spread across the island, resulting in the death of at least 53 people and the destruction of the historic town of Lahaina. The fire is the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii since a tsunami in 1960. The state’s firefighting efforts were further hindered by a small staff and a lack of off-road vehicles, forcing crews to wait for the fires to reach accessible areas before they could be tackled. The high winds made fighting the fire particularly challenging. Lahaina had been identified as a high-risk area for wildfires in the county’s hazard mitigation plan, but the lack of communication and resources contributed to the devastating impact of the fire. Evacuation orders were issued for Lahaina residents, while tourists in hotels were told to shelter in place. The chaos was exacerbated by downed power poles, which blocked important roads. Survivors recount harrowing experiences of fleeing the fire, with some running all night and into the next day to escape. Communication on the island has been disrupted, with 911, landline, and cellular services failing at times. Power outages have also affected parts of Maui. Tourists have been advised to stay away, and efforts are underway to assist those who need to travel home. President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster on Maui and has pledged federal assistance to affected individuals and communities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is deploying personnel to the island..