Report: Lack of shelters means you'll likely be on your own in a disaster

Report: Lack of shelters means you'll likely be on your own in a disaster
Updated: Mar. 1, 2018 at 10:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When it comes to hurricanes, Hawaii has been lucky.

Since 1950, the state's only taken a direct hit three times with Dot, Iwa and Iniki.

But officials say it's only a matter of time when Hawaii's luck runs out.

And when it does, according to a new report written by the state's deputy adjutant general, most people would be on their own — at least when it comes to shelter.

Hawaii has a population of about 1.4 million people, but are only 277,376 available shelter spaces.

Here's the island-by-island breakdown:

  • Oahu: 182,797 shelter spaces
  • Big Island: 36,539 shelter spaces
  • Kauai: 17,395 shelter spaces
  • Maui: 40,645 shelter spaces

"It's obvious there aren't enough shelters," said Brig. Gen. Moses Kaoiwi. "If you have a home you can shelter in, it's probably better to stay at home."

And while most hurricane shelters are in public schools, emergency officials say some of those buildings might not be strong enough to withstand disaster.

Despite a law that requires a structural engineer to examine each shelter, the majority of them haven't been properly looked at because each inspection costs $15,000.

"We build to code," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz. "Building code does not mean building to code that can withstand a Category 4 hurricane."

While there is legislation to fund a pilot project that would retrofit some schools, Dela Cruz says if the bill dies the school system doesn't have the money to make improvements.

[Map of emergency shelters by island]

"We stand ready to help our citizens. However, we do need help as well to make sure our facilities can reach that goal," said Dela Cruz.

Meanwhile, the state is urging residents to harden their own homes.

"It's as simple as buying certain types of wood screws that are thin and very long to tie in the wall studs and the roof rafters, as well as tie in the wall studs to the floor." Kaoiwi said.

In the event you do end up going to a shelter during an emergency, be prepared to bring your own supply of food, water and bedding.

Another warning: Not all shelters are pet-friendly.

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