Hawaii ready for storms, tsunamis

National Weather Service officials announced last week that Hawaii is the first state in the country to be prepared for severe weather storms and tsunamis under voluntary federal guidelines.

Under the NWS programs, all four of the state’s counties achieved the distinctions of StormReady and TsunamiReady, which the agency designed to help communities meet certain communications and safety guidelines and skills.

“Hawaii has experienced more tsunami threats than any other state in the union, and we know how devastating they can be,” Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said in a prepared statement. “In Hawaii we have taken steps to be better prepared for the next tsunami. We have an emergency operations center in every county, a statewide siren system, evacuation maps in the phone books, regular drills and public education programs.”

Although the programs are separate, much of the criteria are similar. State and local officials must address a few exceptions and additions to be TsunamiReady.

In both programs, communities must establish a 24-hour warning point, which can be a police or fire department dispatching point, to receive and disseminate NWS information and activate the local warning system. They must also have established emergency operations centers for jurisdictions that have more than 2,500 people.

Those emergency operations centers and warning points must be able to receive and send weather information in multiple ways, including via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radios, satellite downlink feeds from NWS, a statewide telecommunications network, amateur radio transceivers, wireless devices and local radios.

To be ready for tsunamis, communities must also connect to NOAA’s Weather Wire via the Internet, receive e-mail and pager messages from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and monitor Coast Guard broadcasts, among other methods.

The programs also require communities to train government employees and prepare operations and evacuation plans, among other criteria.

The StormReady program started in 1999, and more than 990 designated communities now exist in 48 states. More than 20 TsunamiReady communities exist in six states. Those communities must renew their program designations every three years.

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said in a press release that her administration is proposing a comprehensive emergency preparedness package focused on hazard mitigation, improved preparedness and accelerated response and recovery efforts.

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