Disaster planning proposal doesn't get state support - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Disaster planning proposal doesn’t get state support

Karen Awana Karen Awana
Maj. Gen. Robert Lee Maj. Gen. Robert Lee

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of families living on leeward Oahu may be getting special attention next time a tsunami, hurricane or disaster comes that way.  But there's a debate at the capitol over who should be responsible for creating their evacuation plan.

On February 27, tsunami day people got to high ground by climbing roofs and ridges, but not everyone can do that, especially the elderly, disabled or homeless.  That's why State Representative Karen Awana wants a law requiring a disaster plan for the Waianae coast.

"We want to be able to have a plan in place instead of always being behind the eight ball and addressing it after the fact," said Rep. Awana, (D) Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili.

Farrington Highway is the only way in and out of the leeward side.  It's been shut down often including on tsunami day.  The bill calls for the community to come together to prepare for the next event.

"Because unfortunately government will not save us in times of natural disasters. We have to find a way as a community to collectively work together to see how we can help ourselves," said Rep. Awana.

"We opposed it originally because the way it was worded it would be spending state dollars," said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, Adjutant General, State of Hawaii.

Maj. Gen. Lee says the state should only fill in the gaps.  It's up to the City of Honolulu to take the lead.  Furthermore he says the city is getting $1.6 million this year for catastrophic planning just like this.  And the city received a total of $3.4 million in 2008 and 2009 for catastrophic disaster planning, whereas the state's budget is a disaster of its own.

"The law basically holds our feet to the fire if you will and there are good reasons for that and there are not so good reasons, but it holds our feet to the fire and if you're going to do that you have to take a look at the resources we have.  If you're going to make it a requirement then you have to take a look at the resources to deliver. Without the law we can go ahead and do these kinds of things as we see need fit without a timetable pushing us so we can deliver the kind of product we need," said Ed Teixeira, State Civil Defense Vice Director.  "I don't want to say that we're giving excuses or trying to pass the buck but that's a reality. We would love to do more but it's going to take some time and its going to take some additional resources."

"There are monies out there within government and that I realize and to put a price on people's lives I think that is very short sided," said Rep. Awana.

The disaster plan bill is still alive at the capitol.  If passed the state civil defense estimates it would cost the state $194,000.

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