Up to 10% of Big Island tsunami warning sirens inoperable

KAILUA-KONA — Nearly 10% of tsunami warning sirens on Hawaii Island were found to be inoperable during a recent test, officials said.

Hawaii County Civil Defense made the determination following an Oct. 1 test of the Big Island’s outdoor warning system, West Hawaii Today reported Sunday.

Nine of the 92 sirens installed in communities around the island did not work during the test, Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said.

Earthquakes around the Pacific are not seasonal and can happen at any time, leaving island residents and visitors at risk. The sirens warn people to move to high ground when an approaching tsunami is detected.

Civil defense sends tsunami alerts via cellphone, but not all areas have reliable service or residents are not registered, officials said.

The state Emergency Management Agency is responsible for the maintenance, repair and replacement of sirens across Hawaii. County workers will perform small repairs such as replacing batteries, but the state agency addresses other issues either through contracted work or sending crews from Honolulu, Magno said.

The Emergency Management Agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Our neighborhood was one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in the entire state in 2011. I live in an inundation zone. The siren hasn’t worked for months on end,” said Willa Marten, a resident of Napoopoo on the west side of the Big Island.

Marten added: “A functioning warning system is important on an island like ours in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I see this current failure as part of a bigger picture of our entire infrastructure being neglected.”

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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