City launching evacuation plan project

City launching evacuation plan project

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Emergency planners on Oahu are working on a comprehensive evacuation strategy, using lessons learned from recent tsunami scares.

"Time is the key factor here. There isn't too much time to not only evacuate, but also to take safe haven," Dept. of Emergency Management director Mel Kaku said.

Atkins North America Inc. creates master plans for coastal evacuations on the mainland. It will spearhead the year-long project.

"We will be developing clearance times, or the time that it would take to theoretically funnel all that evacuation traffic up the various roadways that will take them up to their refuge areas," senior planner Bob Collins said.

The Oahu Emergency Evacuation Plan Project will factor in population density and a community's proximity to the ocean. The goal is to minimize congestion that turns evacuation routes into parking lots.

"Look at Waikiki," Kaku said. "We've got on any given day probably at least 100,000 folks plus commercial traffic that you're going through."

The study will also determine if Oahu needs more evacuation refuge centers. After the analysis, the city will know where to put up Tsunami Evacuation warning signs so residents and visitors know where to go.

"Once they've gotten on the evacuation routes, once we've gotten them onto the roadway, if we don't tell them where to go quickly and expeditiously, we're just creating a great deal of confusion," Collins said.

The city has identified several high-risk evacuation zones that will be studied first. Disaster ready communities like Kailua will help.

"We know Waimanalo and Kaneohe need help. So we've gone out with outreach to talk to these communities to show them what we've done," said Carlene MacPherson of the group Kailua Disaster Preparedness.

The Oahu evacuation plan will be available on the Internet by end of 2013.

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