Most in Hawaii not prepared for natural disaster, study finds

Most Hawaii households do not have enough water, food or medicine in the event of a natural disaster, despite what they might think, a recent study by University of Hawaii researchers has found.

The study, conducted by University of Hawaii West Oahu sustainable community food systems professor Albie Miles and sociology professor Konstantinos Zougris, examined the difference between the perceived and actual preparedness of Hawaii households in the case of natural disasters such hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


“The most important takeaway is that, statewide, there are very low rates of household emergency preparedness,” Miles said, later adding, “There is a lack of awareness of the preparedness recommendations and standards. Many people were simply unaware that HI-EMA has the recommendation of a 14-day supply of food, water and required medicine.” HI-EMA is Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

The study found that 56% of about 1, 000 surveyed households across the state said they believe they have enough supplies for a natural disaster, but only 12% actually have enough water, food and medicine to be considered adequately prepared for emergencies as recommended by HI-EMA, which considers 14 days of emergency supplies the threshold for preparedness.

Additionally, some 24% of the surveyed households said they weren’t supplied because they just weren’t properly informed. One of the study’s recommendations is for the state to improve its efforts to communicate emergency preparedness information through television, the internet, radio and on phones to increase awareness.

HI-EMA’s emergency preparedness recommendations exceed the three days’ worth of food and water recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and even the recommendations of seven days HI-EMA said is being adopted by some states vulnerable to hurricanes.

That’s in large part because the isles are in the middle of the ocean and thousands of miles from the nearest state, so a federal response during a natural disaster is bound to be delayed.

The threat of increasingly common natural disasters and extreme weather patterns fueled by global climate change only makes household emergency preparedness in Hawaii a more urgent issue. Warming oceans, a consequence of climate change, fuel hurricanes, and the planet’s oceans in June set temperature records for a third straight month.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center said there is a 50% chance of “above-normal tropical cyclone activity” this year, predicting four to seven tropical cyclones for the Central Pacific hurricane region. Hawaii’s hurricane season is from June 1 to Nov. 30.

Getting ready for a natural disaster

• Food: Fourteen days of food, water and medications: one gallon of water per person per day; nonperishable food such as canned soups and other nutritionally balanced, shelf-stable meals; a manual can opener.

• Important documents, sealed in a plastic bag: identification, such as a passport or driver’s license; debit and credit card information; banking information, such as account numbers; all insurance information; health care directives; copies of property titles and deeds; copies of prescriptions and dosages; a phone list of family and important numbers.

• Personal hygiene items: toothbrush and toothpaste; soap and shampoo; antibacterial wipes, masks and sanitizer; toilet paper with the roll removed; deodorant; necessary eye care; moisturizing lotion.

• Other items: battery or solar-powered radio; flashlight and extra batteries; plastic bags and ties for waste; whistle, matches, blankets and tarps; extra cash in small bills; first aid kit.

• HI-EMA suggests visiting and clicking the “Get Ready” tab for more preparation information.

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