Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Why was Kauai's dam failure not prevented?

Now is the time to provide aid and care for the people affected by the disaster that struck Kauai. There have been deaths and property loss, and the rain has not yet stopped.

At the same time, we need to examine why this disaster was allowed to happen, and I have chosen these words carefully. Hawaii's government knew of the danger and it looks like they did nothing to prevent it.

How is this different from the situation in New Orleans, when we learned after the fact that there had been plenty of warning that the levees were inadequate to protect the city in the event of a disaster?

The state legislature held hearings on September 12-13, 2005, revealing Hawaii's lack of preparedness for a future disaster of almost any kind. Schools are to be used for shelter, but many are not adequate for the purpose, and just try to find the keys to get into the rooms when disaster strikes. Highways are jammed today, what good will they be in a disaster? Some sirens don't work, and there are no provisions to alert people with hearing problems or deaf people. There are no provisions for people with special needs. I had visions of the water rising in New Orleans as people in nursing homes were drowned lying in their beds.

The dams were known to be a problem.

I attended the hearings and reviewed the `Olelo re-broadcast. It was frightening to hear Ed Teixeira, state vice director of civil defense, respond that this or that was "a work in progress." Well, too late for the work in Kauai, people are dead now.

Today's AP story quotes Mr. Teixeira: "I would characterize this as a growing crisis on Kauai". Well, yes. Someone needs to ask what he did to avert it. The crisis was predictable and in my view, predicted.

This blogger was alarmed at the possibility that Hawaii citizens may be unable to get medical care in an emergency. See here and here. I also communicated with legislators, suggesting a way to track concerns and develop action plans to be sure that problems were identified, responsible persons and resources selected, and timelines for solution developed.

Of course, legislators don't take charge of civil defense personally, but someone should.


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