Questioning hurricane readiness
A Water Ways reader asked, "Has our state Division of Boating and Ocean Resources established any new hurricane preparedness guidelines for its small boat harbors since your May 25 column?"
Although he didn't say, I'm guessing his question was prompted by the hurricane/ tropical storm that pummeled Florida last week. Somehow seeing such a storm on TV makes it very easy to imagine something similar closer to home.
It was a good question, too, because, as I pointed out three months ago, the Hawaii Boater's Hurricane Manual that nearly all of our state-run small boat harbors have handed out since 1998 is no longer available from most harbormasters.
That manual, co-produced by the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program, contained critical directions for boat owners as well as marina operators for preparing themselves for hurricanes or tsunamis.
DOBOR officials assured me in May that more copies of the hurricane manual would soon be available again at all small boat harbor offices, however the Ala Wai Harbormaster's office, at least, is still without them.
I have learned from recent talks with a boating education specialist at DOBOR that its small boat harbors have had a standardized hurricane plan for many years. Yet, after reading the plan, I became concerned when I saw it only addressed actions to be taken when the storm was a mere 36 hours from landfall, rather than in pre-hurricane season, as is often recommended.
I also couldn't help wondering why it didn't contain much of the important advice found in the manual the DLNR had given to boaters in the past.
Missing, too, was any similarity to the comprehensive hurricane preparedness plans that have been developed after the numerous storms that struck the Gulf Coast.
Ideally, DOBOR's plan should take the form of a comprehensive disaster-response manual filled with standard operating procedures that would be applicable to all its harbors, as well as including some procedures that addressed site-specific situations.
All DOBOR harbors are likely to have similar safety considerations for its facilities and staff, and their logistical needs should be comparable, even though the quantities needed may vary.
However, a harbor like the Ala Wai, at the potential terminus of a tropical storm-fed canal, will surely have certain realities to deal with that will not be found at a more isolated harbor like the Big Island's Honokohau.
Gov. Linda Lingle's office recently announced the release of some $8 million to finance an upgrade of Hawaii's civil defense disaster warning sirens, and it's an expenditure that cannot be argued.
Still, the specter of sirens, upgraded or not, howling around harbors filled with boat owners and marina staff that are at a loss as to how to respond is very disturbing.
The best advice at this point may be, to paraphrase a jokester's sign once posted above the Waikiki Yacht Club bar: "In the case of warning sirens, remain calm, pay your bill, and run like hell."