Hawaii emergency evacuations: What you need to know

Local News

HONOLULU(KHON2) — An 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Alaska triggered a tsunami watch on Wednesday, July 28.

Though the watch was canceled, it highlights the need to know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Hurricane season runs June through November, but a tsunami can hit at any time so knowing what to do is vital. Officials said it is not a matter of if — but when an emergency will occur.

Hawaii Red Cross regional sheltering manager Laurence Scott said that each event triggers different responses.

“In the case of a tsunami or a flood, these are typically done after the event as opposed to prior to the event,” Scott explained.

If there is a tsunami, people in underlying areas are told to head for the hills and shelters will be opened if necessary after it hits.

The most important thing to know is whether you are in an evacuation zone.

“If you’re out of the evacuation zone, stay put,” explained John Cummings III from the Department of Emergency Management.

He said those in the danger zone should get to higher ground.

“Either go to the home of a family member or friend,” Cummings said. “Go to a park, a parking lot and just wait it out and see what happens.”

A hurricane is different. A decision to open shelters is made roughly 12 hours prior to its arrival.

If you are not in a storm surge area or where high winds are expected, Cummings said it is best to stay where you are.

“You can plan on sheltering in place in your home in a protected room,” he explained. “That’s really the ideal place to be — in a safe room in your home because your supplies are there.”

You could also shelter with friends or family.

If you do go to a shelter, you must bring your own emergency supplies, including PPE.

“Inside the shelter, everybody is required to wear masks, both the red cross workers and any clients that are in the shelter,” Scott said.

The shelter manager will also ensure physical distancing is practiced.

“We will ask people to social distance with nonfamily members and we try to allocate 60 square feet for each person within the evacuation shelter,” Scott explained. “If we are going to run into a maximum number of people per shelter, we will work with our partners to open up another shelter.”

But Cummings said if they can not open another facility, they may not be able to adhere to those guidelines.

“As much as possible the shelter manager is going to work with social distancing, keeping people separated. But if it gets to the point, now we have a lot of people that have come in, we’ve got a category four hurricane coming, we’re going to put everybody inside,” Cummings said. “So again, it’s really important knowing that you might be in tight circumstances.”

That is one of the reasons people should shelter at home whenever possible and only go to a community shelter as a last resort.

Guidelines may differ slightly by county, click here for additional information on Kauai, Maui or Hawaii Island.

To find out how to contact the American Red Cross of Hawaii, click here.

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