City working through tsunami night problems

City working through tsunami night problems

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Government agencies are sorting through what worked and what didn't during Saturday's tsunami scare.  A big issue to work through is the siren warning system.

Once the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center makes its prediction its up to the government to respond and right off the bat on Oahu there was a big mistake with the sirens.

The first siren on Oahu was activated at 7:50 Saturday night.  But only about half of them went off.  That's because of a human error.  The city worker went to the old siren sounding system and hit the alert and attack buttons. But the city is transitioning to a new system and the worker should have gone to the new computer station instead.

"Due to the confusion, what some people call the fog of war with everything going on, the initial siren activation for the County of Oahu was done using the older siren system that is still in place," said John Cummings III, Honolulu Department of Emergency Management.

Fifteen minutes later at 8:05 pm the error was realized and the first warning on the new system was sent out.  Still sirens in Haleiwa, Sunset, Kuliouou and Kahana Valley didn't go off.  The city is checking those areas.

"We had challenges evacuating in three hours can you imagine trying to do it in a half an hour," said Cummings.

If there is a local quake a tsunami could hit in less than 30 minutes so the city says don't just rely on sirens. You should sign up for mobile alerts with media stations and with the city. Nixle will send alerts regarding emergencies and other Citywide information.  You can sign up at bu clicking HERE.

The city office of emergency management doesn't work 24/7 so if there is another emergency on a Saturday night the city is working with the Honolulu Police Department to have them sound the sirens first while city workers are coming into work.

The city tried new techniques during this warning. It turned traffic lights green in Waikiki and Ft. Weaver Road in Ewa Beach in order to keep evacuation traffic moving. Also with 15 minutes before the first wave was expected to hit at 10:28 pm the city sent out an alert warning people if they were still in their car and in the evacuation zone to consider abandoning the car and walking to higher ground.

"We suggested they may want to leave their cars so we're going to have to think was that a good idea, a bad idea? If we do something like that is it the type of thing that will save lives or endanger them," said Peter Carlisle, Honolulu Mayor.

It's often a darned if you do, darned if you don't situation.  The state says the overall response was correct.

"Did it cost us some sleep? Sure. Is it going to the various governments and agencies some overtime pay? Yes it is but we had a really threat and we reacted to the threat and I think we reacted exactly appropriately," said Doug Mayne, State Civil Defense Vice Director.

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