FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Manny Mattos, a retired Honolulu policeman who moved his family to the Big Island, organized an emergency notification and evacuation team so they could take care of themselves in a disaster. Mattos, above, sits with his daughter, Leialoha-ann Mattos, and the Hawaiian war clubs (niho leiomano) he makes as a hobby.
Retired policeman keeps community tsunami-ready
Retired Honolulu policeman Manny Mattos moved in 2000 from Waipahu to Hawaiian Paradise Park on the Big Island and went back to work as a volunteer to create tsunami awareness.
Many people in the community had moved from the mainland and had little or no understanding of tsunamis or other natural disasters, he said.
Paradise Park encompasses 3.5 miles in a tsunami evacuation zone and has 1,080 lots, 40 percent with homes, he said. "It would be a momentous task to notify everyone. Probably some wouldn't hear sirens.
"I felt maybe we should organize and help ourselves and not be dependent on Civil Defense to help in evacuating people."
Mattos got about 20 residents together in February 2006 and formed an emergency notification and evacuation team.
The volunteers held their first tsunami exercise and two-way radio test yesterday on the anniversary of the disastrous 1946 tsunami.
Mattos said their first responsibility was to educate residents about natural disasters and preparedness, and they had huge turnouts at informational meetings.
The team is working with the Police Department and volunteer fire department in the Paradise Park area to assist in an emergency, he said. They will staff checkpoints in and out of the tsunami inundation zone and use bullhorns to alert people, he said.
They have identified residents with special needs and are working with them to make sure they are cared for in an emergency, he said.
Noted for creating Hawaiian war clubs out of endemic woods, Mattos has taken on yet another challenge to increase disaster awareness.
"The biggest obstacle Civil Defense has is in educating people," he said. "We've got to start with elementary schools."
His daughter is in second grade at Keeau Elementary School, so he talked to her class about tsunamis, what to look for if they are at the beach or the ground is shaking, he said.
While at the school, he learned it had received one of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's all-hazard weather radios but did not know how to program it.
So he helped that school and others on the Big Island set up the radios and has volunteered to do the same for other schools in the state.
Mattos also created a tsunami presentation with NOAA handouts for school lectures and will speak at Big Island schools throughout April, Tsunami Awareness Month.