JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Emma Ernestburg, an American Red Cross disaster assistance co-captain, navigated the narrow walkway between cot spaces in a demonstration of shelter layout at the American Red Cross Shelter Expo in the Kahuku High School cafeteria yesterday.
State critically short of shelters
Plan where to ride out a storm, residents are told
Hawaii heads into this year's hurricane season June 1 still 124,000 evacuation shelter spaces short of its statewide goal.
That's despite raised awareness and more state spending on emergency preparedness since Hurricane Katrina in September.
At best, Hawaii will add 14,000 more spaces at 32 shelters over the next three to four years, state hurricane planner Danny Tengan said yesterday.
Should a hurricane strike this season, the state and counties are advising people to plan ahead to locate safe buildings where they can ride out the storm.
The state and counties also are pushing to add two kinds of shelters Hawaii hasn't had before: special medical needs shelters and pet shelters.
Pet shelters are still in development and there won't be any this year, Tengan said. The eventual goal is a total of 31 pet shelters: 10 on Oahu, eight on Maui, seven on the Big Island and six on Kauai.
Hurricane shelters generally will not accept pets, and experience with Hurricane Katrina showed some people won't leave their pets behind even if they are in danger areas.
The state also plans to have at least one special medical needs shelter in each county during this year's hurricane season, Tengan said. It will be a place where chronically ill people, like those undergoing dialysis, would be asked to go.
The ultimate target is 120 special-needs shelters: 70 on Oahu, 20 on the Big Island, 18 in Maui County and 12 on Kauai.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
A man wandered through the cot area at the American Red Cross Shelter Expo in the Kahuku High School cafeteria yesterday afternoon.
Acutely ill people will be sheltered at the hospital or nursing home where they are being cared for, said state Vice Director of Civil Defense Ed Teixeira.
Tengan and Honolulu Civil Defense spokesman John Cummings III both said that because of Hawaii's chronic shortage of shelter spaces, they advise people to prepare to shelter in their homes, unless they live:
» on a windy ridgetop that could have extremely high winds in a hurricane,
» in a single-walled, older home of weak construction, or
» in a tsunami inundation zone (marked on a map in the front of the telephone book).
A home or structure built after Iniki may be the safest, since the 1991 storm triggered new hurricane-protection building code requirements, Cummings said.
Tengan said one thing he recommends is that friends and families form huis and chip in money to harden the most hurricane-worthy house in the group, then plan to weather the storm there together.
For those who expect to go to a shelter, an event yesterday at Kahuku High School provided a preview of what to expect.
Emma Ernestburg, a Red Cross volunteer for 45 years, explained that evacuation shelters are not luxury hotel suites.
"Bring your hurricane kit, because we will not feed you for 72 hours," Ernestburg told people visiting the mock shelter yesterday.
And bring your bedding, because the floor is hard, she said, pointing to 3-by-5-foot taped sections of the cafeteria floor. That's how much space each individual gets -- unless the shelter is overfilled.
"We want people to observe what it looks like for when the real time comes," said Ernestburg, who helped at Laie shelter during Hurricane Iniki when it held 5,000 people, locals and tourists from the Turtle Bay Hotel.
"It's hot and crowded," Tengan summed up from his experience volunteering at shelters in Houston for three weeks after Katrina.
A disaster-preparedness kit can make a big difference in one's comfort level, no matter where you are, said Maria Lutz, American Red Cross of Hawaii's director of disaster services.
"Don't waste time," she said. "Look at the checklist. ... Think about your kit in a different way, not just for the largest disaster or catastrophic event. It will come in handy when the power is off a couple of days."
Last year the state spent $350,000 on design of the proper retrofits to make the 32 buildings -- mostly public school buildings and a few community centers -- safe to survive a Category 1 hurricane (wind speeds of 80 mph, with gusts up to 105 mph), Tengan said.
The estimated cost to finish the upgrades is $17 million.
Available so far is $6 million in state capital improvement funds -- $2 million carried over from last year and $4 million coming in July.
Work will begin on retrofitting some future shelter buildings this year, Tengan said, but they won't be ready for use until the 2007 hurricane season.
Of the 32 locations, three that are farthest along are: Molokai High School, to add 546 shelter spaces; Lanai High School, to add 266 spaces; and Hana High School, to add 234 spaces.
Most buildings will have their windows and doors "hardened" with hurricane-grade shutters, screens or laminates, Tengan said. But they have to be properly designed and installed by factory-trained installers to be effective.
BACK TO TOP
Everyone should prepare disaster kit with essentials
Everyone in Hawaii needs a three-day emergency kit packed with certain essentials.
The kit can be used to weather a hurricane or other emergency at home, or can be taken to a Red Cross Evacuation shelter. It should include:
» Water: One gallon of water per person per day, in plastic containers.
» Food: At least a three-day supply of nonperishable food that needs no refrigeration, preparation, cooking and little or no water; and is compact and lightweight, such as ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables; canned juices; small amounts of salt, sugar, pepper; high-energy foods; food for infants or those with special diets; "comfort" foods.
» A First Aid Kit: 20 adhesive bandages, various sizes; one 5-by-9-inch sterile dressing; one conforming roller gauze bandage; two triangular bandages; two 3 x 3-inch sterile gauze pads; two 4 x 4 sterile gauze pads; one roll 3" cohesive bandage; two germicidal hand wipes or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer; six antiseptic wipes; two pair large medical grade non-latex gloves; 2-inch-wide adhesive tape; anti-bacterial ointment; a cold pack; small scissors; tweezers; CPR breathing barrier, such as a face shield; aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever; anti-diarrhea medication; antacid; laxative; syrup of Ipecac and activated charcoal (for use if advised by the Poison Control Center).
» Tools and Supplies: Mess kits, or paper cups, plates and plastic utensils; emergency preparedness manual (available from Red Cross); battery-operated radio and extra batteries; flashlight and extra batteries; cash or traveler's checks, change; non-electric can opener, utility knife; toilet paper, towelettes; soap, liquid detergent; feminine supplies; personal hygiene items.
» Clothing and Bedding: One change of clothing and footwear per person, including sturdy shoes or work boots; rain gear; blankets or sleeping bags.
» Special Items: Baby formula, diapers, bottles, milk and medications; prescription medications, including heart and high blood-pressure medication and insulin; denture supplies; contact lens supplies; extra eye glasses.
» Entertainment: Quiet games, cards, toys and books.
Source: American Red Cross