To their credit, the Honolulu media have picked up the demand (first made by this web log on September 1
) for answers about Hawaii’s readiness to survive its next major hurricane. Today’s Honolulu Advertiser is full of those answers.
But not all of them. Incredibly, the Advertiser writes
:“FEMA has been criticized for its response to Katrina. The agency did not respond to repeated requests from The Advertiser to discuss its role in dealing with Hawaii disasters.” FEMA refuses to respond to Hawaii’s largest newspaper?
If Hawaii residents want to condemn FEMA’s lack of responsiveness in the hashest terms, who would blame them? (Guess we won't be holding our breath waiting for an answer from FEMA's Honolulu chief to the letter sent to him in early September
Elsewhere in Advertiser stories, Hawaii’s crisis planners have admitted that notwithstanding whatever they’ve been doing as professionals, the state remains woefully unprepared to survive a category 3 or higher hurricane.
Today’s lead story
begins:“Despite glowing reviews about Hawaii’s ability to prepare for hurricanes and other disasters, serious gaps plague the system, raising questions about how well the state can weather a direct hit from a major storm.”
What’s missing? Start with adequate shelter. “The Achilles heel for us is having adequate shelters for our people,” said Ed Teixeira, vice director of state Civil Defense. The Advertiser reports Oahu has a shortage of about 60,000 spaces; statewide, the shortfall is 124,000.
And of the shelters in the inventory, none have been specifically designated for the elderly, sick or disabled. “It could be a real disaster
,” said the state AARP director.
The newspaper also uncovered this gem: “Hawaii is the only state in the country that is not part of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which has a one-stop system for a state to seek emergency aid from other members during a time of disaster.” The cost to join is nothing, so why hasn’t Hawaii signed up?
What about communications? The City’s director of information technology says the communications system is vulnerable due to the lack of maintenance. “It’s over 10 years of neglect,” he said of the previous administration’s performance.
The paper’s “Focus” section rounds out its disaster-preparedness coverage today with a commentary
by retired Marine Corps officer and Honolulu resident Col. Peter F.C. Armstrong, whose piece has a similar theme and asks similar questions as the commentary that launched the Katrina Lessons web log two weeks ago.
The upcoming Asia-Pacific Homeland Security Summit and Exposition
this week in Honolulu will be Hawaii residents’ opportunity to press our crisis planners for even more answers. FEMA’s representatives at the Summit, if any attend, might well expect to attract considerable attention, especially with two hurricanes bearing down on Hawaii