Thursday, December 23, 1999

‘Safe havens’
to offer relief
from fireworks

Movie theaters and campsites
welcome folks with lung ailments
for a safer New Year's Eve

Huge cache of aerial fireworks seized
Where to call about 'havens'

By Treena Shapiro


People with lung ailments can breathe a sigh of relief now that movie theaters and campsites around the island have offered themselves as New Year's Eve "safe havens."

The American Lung Association of Hawaii last month set up a pilot project to generate response and educate the public about the need for clean-air facilities where people can escape the smoke from fireworks. Movie theaters, malls and other such air-conditioned spaces were the preferred venues.

At the beginning of the week, the association sent out postcards to concerned people informing them that the options were campsites in Kahuku and Makakilo and a limited number of discounted rooms at the Ilikai.

The Ilikai rooms were booked almost immediately. "Little did we know that there was such a demand and need for this sort of thing," said Haunani Hendrix, director of marketing at the hotel. But late Tuesday afternoon, two more venues were made available. The Signature Theatres 18-plex at Dole Cannery and the Wallace Theatres Restaurant Row 9-plex will be staying open for their regular midnight showings. Consolidated Theatres will be closing early so employees can celebrate the holiday.

"I see it as an opportunity to provide an environment for people to spend the millennium in a less smoky environment," said David Lyons, marketing director at Wallace's Portland, Ore., headquarters.

Feature films are more than 2 1/2 hours long. "By the time the films end, things should be clear," Lyons said.

Austin Dias, a member of the Safe Haven 2000 committee and former president of the lung association here, now has somewhere to take his elderly mother-in-law. Before he learned about the decision to keep theaters open, he said he was planning to get her an oxygen tank. Two years ago, she developed life-threatening pneumonia after New Year's Eve, Dias said.

While there is a question as to whether the air-conditioning and filter systems can keep all the smoke from entering the theaters, Dias said, "Even if it is a concern, it's better than not being in a clean-air venue at all and being with all the fireworks outside."

Some outdoor areas won't be affected by smoke and also are safe havens.

Beds are available for $20 a head at Camp Timberline in Makakilo, and the package includes a New Year's breakfast. Smoke won't reach the camp, situated at the top of the Waianae mountain range, but fireworks will be visible to Diamond Head. About 96 beds are still available, and tent camping also will be allowed.

And at the Malaekahana state recreation area in Kahuku, 25 campsites are still available. Fireworks are illegal on the property.

But these safe havens won't work for everyone, particularly the elderly, the infirm and small children. And house-bound people will have to come up with their own plans.

Helen Smalley-Bower is going to tape up the windows of her 24th-floor condominium unit. Her son breathes with assistance from a bypass machine, which pushes air into his lungs to keep them expanded. Her husband also suffers from a lung ailment. And Smalley-Bower is legally blind, so she can't drive them anywhere in case of an emergency.

"It's very scary," she said. "We know we are stuck inside. We know if we have a medical emergency, we'll have difficulty getting out."

But not all of Hawaii's 200,000 people with lung ailments dislike fireworks. Twelve-year-old asthma sufferer Jeffrey Oshiro is going to "take the good with the bad" and light off some fireworks before retreating into his relatively smoke-free garage in Olomana. "Maybe I'll wear a mask," he joked.

Where to call

Movie tickets for both Signature and Wallace theaters will be available for presale at the box offices. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
For Camp Timberline information and reservations, call Jolie at 672-5441.
For Malaekahana information and reservations, call Molly at 293-1736.
For more information about Safe Haven, leave a message on the American Lung Association's hot line at 537-5966, ext. 304.

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