News Release: DEM urges residents to review revised preparedness resources for Hurricane Season 2021
Department of Emergency Management (DEM) urges residents to review revised preparedness resources for Hurricane Season 2021
HONOLULU – With two weeks of hurricane season already past, the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) advises residents to review the City’s newly revised hurricane preparedness resources including the new hurricane refuge area shelter list as an important step in hurricane preparedness. Although the NOAA hurricane season forecast this year is favorable, it is extremely important that residents don’t get complacent and continue to approach tropical cyclone preparedness with a sense of urgency.
“As island dwellers every hurricane season poses a very real threat to our safety and well-being,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “In recent years, the Pacific Ocean has proven to be more volatile with tropical storms and sea level rise implications than in the past. Being prepared is not only responsible, but can prove to be essential to you and your family’s survival.”
“Disaster preparedness starts with understanding the hazards that can impact you at your location and making plans accordingly. One of the most important hurricane preparedness steps is to determine whether or not you might need to evacuate in advance of a storm and where to go. Decide now if sheltering in place at home is an option. If not, you could evacuate to the home of a friend or family member, or you would opt to go to a hurricane refuge area,” said Hiro Toiya, director for the Honolulu Department of Emergency Management.
The City’s recently revised hurricane refuge area list includes 38-sites that could potentially open as public shelters in advance of a tropical cyclone. Utilizing available federal funding in 2020, the City undertook a program to evaluate over 200 existing buildings to determine which ones would be best suited as hurricane refuge areas.
Previously identified hurricane shelters were not assessed to the level of detail of the 2020 survey which identified and assigned a composite risk level and ranking for the refuge site based on a professional assessment of wall, roof and structural components, wind speeds, flood zones and other factors. The highest ranking facilities have been selected as the current hurricane refuge areas as well as being prioritized for future retrofitting projects to achieve an even higher level of tropical storm protection.
While these hurricane refuge areas offer some protection from hurricane threats, they are intended to be a last resort for those without safer options to use. In almost all cases, these facilities – that are often referred to as “shelters” – do not meet State of Hawaii guidelines for hurricane evacuation shelters. The shelters on the 2021 list provide a safer option than remaining in areas prone to flooding, storm surge, or in older homes with wood frames or single-wall construction that do not perform well under tropical storm force winds.
“Last year our list included 122 facilities, many of which had not been assessed in recent years for their level of protection against tropical storm or hurricane force winds. The buildings on the revised list were evaluated by structural engineers who surveyed buildings, specific rooms and areas using a standard process that considered local building design and hazard modeling to ensure the areas used offer the most protection. As a result of the assessments, we ruled out several facilities that we previously considered for use as hurricane evacuation shelters,” Toiya said. “Although we now have fewer facilities available in some areas of the island, we have more confidence in the level of protection offered by the facilities that we have remaining on our list. We will continue to assess more sites and identify opportunities to strategically retrofit buildings in coordination with the State.”
To help residents develop their emergency plans, DEM has prepared evacuation considerations and guidance for staying as safe as possible before, during and after a tropical cyclone.
Prepare now for the next Hurricane or Tropical Storm
· View the 2021 hurricane refuge area map here
· View downloadable hurricane preparedness resources and the 2021 hurricane refuge area map here
DEM highly recommends residents review, download, save and/or print relevant resources, so they are accessible in case of a disaster and power/communication outage.