By Deb Hileman for PRNews
Maui continues to reel from wildfires that are now the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century. It has been widely reported that in the hours leading up to the deadly Lahaina wildfire last week, Maui’s all-hazard sirens did not alert residents, and officials apparently relied on social media posts that reached just a small fraction of the population.
The warning sirens are just one element of response efforts that are being investigated by the Hawai’i Attorney General’s office and other officials.
Alongside the inquiry into what caused the devastating fire are arguably more important questions, including why warnings could have so utterly failed. Why the only highway out of town was barricaded, forcing people into harm’s way. Why contradicting messages were posted on social media. How power outages contributed to communications problems.
At first blush there appears to be plenty of blame to go around, but it will be several months, at best, before the results of the investigations are known.
For an outsider looking in, it appears that there was a significant lack of coordination across multiple agencies. This may or may not be true. As recently as August 1, sirens were tested and initially failed in three counties. What is unclear is whether officials had planned for and held drills to prepare for a fast-moving disaster like a wildfire.
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