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HOOSER: How prepared is Kaua‘i for its next disaster?

How prepared are we? That’s the question Kaua‘i County needs to be asking itself.

Second guessing the actions of government “post-disaster” is unavoidable, natural and necessary — but the time to plan for us is now, before the worst case scenario actually happens.

Without a doubt our mayor and our county council are asking this question of our Kaua‘i Fire Department and of the Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency (KEMA).

Hopefully, there are contingency plans for similar wildfires that could occur here, particularly on Kaua‘i’s south and west sides.

Hopefully, Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) has a plan in place in case power poles go down in high winds and dry grass.

Hopefully, there are evacuation plans in place that don’t just depend on cellphones and FaceBook to get the word out.

Hopefully, our council and mayor don’t just rely on hope, faith and optimism, but instead demand to see the plans and then agree to provide the support and funding needed for the necessary infrastructure (both physical and personnel).

It’s only a matter of time when another major disaster will strike our own shores again.

Global warming is real. Without question, we collectively are in the early stages of a climate disaster — globally.

Perhaps it may come via wildfire, but historically high ocean temperatures will drive the wind and rains of our next hurricane — to levels never seen before.

We have many old earthen dams that are under-maintained, under-inspected, and sitting uphill from residential areas.

We know clearly the destruction that accompanies flash flooding.

What’s the plan when the Wailua bridge is destroyed by major storm flooding? How do residents living on the east and north shores receive emergency medical care or simply regular life sustaining care?

We are long overdue for a major tsunami.

How much food is on hand if a tsunami takes out our harbors, or some other major event prevents the barges from coming?

Why do we continue to allow major development in the tsunami and stream flood zones?

Are our firefighters adequately trained, do they have the equipment needed, and is the required staffing at 100 percent? Ditto with the KEMA.

Why are landowners not held responsible for maintaining their property to minimize the likelihood of wildfires?

Is there a “toxic chemical map” showing where toxic chemicals sold in our community are used and stored?

Why are we given nothing but excuses tied to limited funding when inquiring about dam safety?

Is the water pressure and availability needed for fighting a major fire sufficient in all areas where residents and visitors reside?

Why do we not require the under-grounding of power lines, especially in sensitive areas?

Do we have maps and special plans in place to handle the evacuation of those in long-term care and assisted living facilities? What about our preschools, those with special needs and the houseless?

The answer to minimize the risks: Proactive planning based on real world experience supported by the equipment and people necessary to lead us through our own next disaster.

Hopefully, those responsible for managing our disaster response efforts have those answers and plans, and/or are working “as we speak” to come up with those answers and plans (which no doubt is an ongoing process). And, hopefully, our elected leaders are also seeking answers and offering the necessary support.

Hopefully.

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Gary Hooser served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Counci. He presently writes on Hawaii Policy and Politics at www.garyhooser.blog.
Source: The Garden Island

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