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State officials urge residents to stock up on supplies and prepare homes


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POSTED: Saturday, August 08, 2009

With hurricane season under way, isle residents are encouraged to prepare for an emergency and “;shelter in place”; if possible to decrease the burden on public shelters from mass evacuations.

Hurricane Felicia is expected to slowly weaken to a tropical depression by the time it reaches the Big Island next week, but forecasters are alert to any changes.

Hurricane season runs from June to November, and tsunamis and earthquakes are an ever-present threat.

“;Look at your own safety,”; said Edward Teixeira, state Department of Defense vice director. “;Your home is your first shelter. Take a good look at your home.”;

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Dr. Kate Gaynor, Department of Health All Hazards Preparedness coordinator, suggests arranging with friends or neighbors to make the strongest family home “;a place to go in a disaster.”; She commended state Civil Defense for identifying 158 special-needs shelter sites and pushing for supplies but said, “;We don't want people to get the impression all come with supplies and staff.”;

Gaynor said an interagency emergency preparedness plan for people with disabilities and special health needs was revised last year.

“;We've made great progress setting up special needs resources, but we're not there yet,”; she said. “;We encourage people to do as much as they can to prepare themselves.”;

The Red Cross manages the general shelters but cannot provide medical care, so 1 1/2 years ago the Health Department started developing “;alternate care accessibility,”; she said. “;The initial goal is to provide care to about 1,000 people, but we don't yet have capability to staff all 158 shelters.”;

The Health Department has been developing a Hawaii Medical Reserve Corps of volunteers with medical experience and other skills.

Teixeira said the state Civil Defense agency is looking at other ways to increase volunteer support for shelters and has talked to Lions Clubs and other groups about providing help.

Residents expecting to use the special-needs shelters should take enough supplies for three days, he said, including a caregiver if possible, food, any needed medical equipment and medicine. Those using general shelters also should take their own supplies, he said.

The Hawaiian Humane Society said there are 55 pet-friendly shelters statewide, with 30 on Oahu, and their locations are available at http://www.hawaiianhumane.org.

Civil Defense is continuing to use some homeland security funds to buy supplies and hopes to work with the Department of Education to pre-position some at various sites, Teixeira said. And the agency still is increasing the number of shelters, he said, describing a “;one-stop shop”; kind of approach—seeking sites with buildings that can accommodate pets, the general population and people with special needs.

For a list of shelters and other information about disaster preparedness, see the state Civil Defense Web site, www.scd.state.hi.us.

 


Star-Bulletin reporter Gary T. Kubota contributed to this report.