Controversy erupts over Maui’s emergency operations chief’s decision not to use warning sirens during a catastrophic wildfire, fueling suspicions and concern over his qualifications.
The island is now under scrutiny as evidence mounts that there were critical red flags leading up to and during the catastrophic event.
Maui’s emergency operations chief, Herman Andaya, had no conventional background in disaster response, an alarming revelation that has heightened concerns over his decision-making.
Andaya’s department was responsible for sounding the warning sirens, but these crucial alarms remained ominously silent during the firestorm.
The devastating fire that ravaged the beautiful island of Maui ignited at 12:22 a.m., a time when the residents were tucked in their beds, completely unaware of the impending disaster.
Had those sirens been activated, it’s conceivable that the residents would have received the crucial warning they needed, potentially allowing them time to evacuate and seek safety. The sirens remained silent, leaving many to wonder what could have been.
In a press conference that has already become infamous, Chief Andaya defended his choice to send out alerts via mobile devices, radio waves, television, and the county’s opt-in resident alert system instead of utilizing the sirens.
Andaya asserted that the sirens are typically reserved for tsunami warnings, and Hawaiians are trained to seek higher ground when they are sounded, which, in this dire scenario, would have led them toward the flames.
“The sirens, as I had mentioned earlier, is used primarily for tsunamis. And that’s the reason why many of them are found. Almost all of them are found on the coastline. The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the siren is sounded,” Andaya claimed.
“In fact, on the website of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the firing guideline is provided. If you are in a low-lying area near the coastline, evacuate to high grounds inland or vertically to the fourth floor and higher of a concrete building. Alerts may also come in the form of a wireless emergency alert,” he added.
“Had we sounded the siren that night, we’re afraid that people would have gone mauka [toward the mountains]. And if that was the case, then they would have gone into the fire.”
“I should also note that there are no sirens mauka, or on the mountainside, where the fire was spreading down. So even if we sounded the siren, we would not have saved those people out there on the mountainside,” he added.
The press did not shy away from questioning whether Andaya would consider delegating further responsibility to others. In response, he defiantly rejected the notion that he didn’t have experience before assuming his current role.
He pointed to his employment history in the housing department and as a staffer in the mayor’s cabinet, during which time he reported to the emergency operation centers.
“To say that I am not qualified, I think is incorrect,” Andaya added.
Below is the weather of Maui, Hawaii, for the month of August, according to Weather25.com.
Below is the historical weather data of Lahaina, Maui, according to Washington Post. The data below is from 1961-1990.