Big Island emergency warning sirens repaired; additional sirens to be added

  • A warning siren is seen on Kuakini Highway. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Talmadge Magno

Emergency warning sirens around the Big Island are operational again after nearly 10% were in need of repair last October.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) awarded bids in November for repair of sirens at Napo‘opo‘o, Punalu‘u, Baker Avenue, Carvalho Park, Na‘alehu Elementary School and Hawaiian Paradise Park.

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As of the last test on Feb. 3, all sirens on the island were operational, Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said.

However, Magno added, two sirens have been taken offline — Hapuna Beach and Hawi.

Hapuna Beach is scheduled to be either repaired or replaced by sometime this fall, he said, noting the Puako siren covers that area.

The Hawi siren is offline because HI-EMA is considering relocating the siren due to the difficulty in accessing it for repairs and maintenance. Magno said there is also a nearby siren that provides coverage to the area.

HI-EMA’s policy for prioritizing maintenance, repair and installation of new or replacement sirens came under review after a pair of West Hawaii Today stories last fall revealed nearly 10% — nine of the Big Island’s 92 sirens — were inoperable as of the Oct. 1, 2019, test.

“The purpose for the siren system is to provide warning for tsunamis, particularly in areas where other means of urgent alerting are unavailable,” Hawaii Emergency Management administrator Tom Travis said when announcing the change in late October.

Travis vowed to prioritize the Big Island siren repairs, and requests for bids went out in early November. All repairs were complete by the end of January, records show.

In addition to the contracts awarded for repair, a two-year, $2.3 million bid was awarded for installation of new sirens on Hawaii Island and Oahu.

Magno said his agency is working with HI-EMA to put together a priority list for those new sirens. He could not provide the number of installations, or their locations, at this time.

In an attempt to get the word of an impending disaster to resorts on the Kohala Coast, Magno said Civil Defense is working with HI-EMA to install “informers” to alert hotel security simultaneously with the activation of sirens.

Magno said his department remains vigilant in monitoring sirens on the island.

“They are mechanical devices; we always have to check on them,” he said.

HI-EMA encourages the public to make use of other supplemental methods of warning including, but not limited to, signing up for the County of Hawaii Civil Defense mass emergency notification system and utilizing NOAA Weather Radio.

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The next monthly test of the emergency warning sirens will take place on March 2, the first business day of the month.

Residents with concerns about the sirens or their operations, or with reports of siren malfunctions, may contact Hawaii County Civil Defense at 935-0031.

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