Emergency official who did not sound sirens for Maui fire is out of a job

Originally published at: Emergency official who did not sound sirens for Maui fire is out of a job | Boing Boing


If those are de-facto tsunami sirens the decision to not use them for wildfires seems relatively plausible.

What seems more troublesome, for someone in a leadership position, is having only one flavor of siren in a context where there are at least two disaster responses required of the public that are absolutely not interchangeable.


I agree that sounding a siren that is supposed to solicit a specific response (run to the hills, literally) and expecting the untrained public to know via telepathy that they are expected to do somehing different this time, would have made things worse.

Here in Illinois we have tornado sirens and the expected response is “get to the basement”. If the local emergency management agency suddenly wanted to use it to warn about flash floods (which are possible) it would probably cause more harm.

I dont know what the best course of action would be here. Having police go through the neighborhoods blasting sirens probably wouldnt help as the police force is not large enough to deploy for that purpose while also assisting with the emergency. Firefighters would be similarly occupied. Telephone alerts would only reach those who keep their ringers on.


I feel for the guy. It really is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. I can see the cold, logical rationale.

I can also see that doing nothing can’t work either. That man has to live with a decision for the rest of his life and I can’t even say if he screwed up or not.


The cause of this Maui tragedy is sounding more and more like the 2018 Paradise,California PG&E wildfire horror which caused 84 deaths and essentially wiped out the entire town. No doubt there are more errors than that to be investigated; but mismanagement at the power companies are always about cost cutting.


Wait, didn’t Hawaii also have a false missile alarm in recent memory?

I guess it was in 2018.

I feel like their emergency response is not up to the task.


Culturally, we are driven by death and disaster to find someone to blame. When there is no one within reason we manufacture blame. This tendency, combined with the heightened spread of misinformation about every little thing in our lives, makes it painfully easy to litigate past inaction as malicious or negligent when it’s neither.

I’m sad for this man.


Apparently there are different tones/bursts/lengths used with those very sirens that makes them multi-disaster capable and it’s all listed on their emergency planning website. It even mentions wildfires as being a reason why these would go off… even for an incoming nuclear rocket.

As for where people would run… golly, see above. The pattern you hear tells you what the emergency is. There seems to be enough built-in to the system that … even if you don’t know what the emergency is, do you have a radio at least? When shit hits the fan here, I don’t scroll Twitter or Facebook for the info… I turn on the radio to one of two ‘responsible’ stations (those that would give you the straight goods and not some automated playlist that comes media conglomerate HQ).

Power needs to be shut off, this isn’t about keeping the AC going, this is an evacuation… all signs you need to get the fk out of there.

But he’s resigning because of ‘health’ reasons… nice soft package on the way out the door.


I think this guy made the right call but leadership is embarrassed and are looking to throw anyone under the bus. Don’t they have an emergency text system? Here in my area the city regularly sends texts when there’s potential tornadoes, inclement weather, etc and seems like something like that should’ve been used in Maui.


Emergency alerts were sent to cell phone, TV, and radio stations.


If things go like they usually do in Hawaii, the person who issued the Emergency Alert in 2018 will likely be the frontrunner for the position vacated by Herman Andaya. The old boy network almost guarantees this.


If true then that’s good, so they’re focusing on this siren not sounding but everything else was going off


Multipurpose sirens are only useful if accompanied by a public education program. Otherwise people will fall back on what they know the siren to mean. In this case, Get to high ground.

It took a while to find the Maui EMA website.

Looks like the only instruction is that if the tone is three minutes long then turn on your TV. Not fantastic if the power lines are down, which they were.


As a fellow Illinoisian, and an old one who got all the fun siren training in school (anyone else remember hiding under a desk when it wasn’t for an “active shooter”?) it’s practically instinctual to look for shelter when it goes off. Especially recently when we had ~13 tornados in a week around Chicago, which is more than they’ve had in decades combined. Even my little ones know that the siren means we go to the basement…which of course would be exactly the worst place for a flood.

I don’t know if I can really blame this guy for not setting off the sirens if they’ve drilled a response that would be 100% counter to the desired impact. Do you fire Pavlov for the dog drooling once you’ve rung the bell?


Another part of the problem is cell network failures. We need better enforcement of regulations for emergency power backup. We’re probably also going to need more drills and PSAs, for the public as well as responders. What to do when cell phones don’t work should be the first lesson.


80 MPH winds…who would’ve even been able to hear sirens?


That seems far too complicated for an emergency situation. Unless they do regular drills, people just aren’t going to be able to react in an emergency to that level of complexity. Add to that this is a tourist town. The vast majority of people in that situation will not have read the emergency planning website, nor will they have an AM radio.

That seems a bit callous to me. He was in a tough situation and he had to make a decision. We don’t even know for sure that it was the wrong one (and I’m sure he’s torturing himself over whether it was the right one). Maybe he would have saved lives if he’d sounded the alarm, or maybe the death toll would be three times higher. We’ll never know. Regardless, I certainly doubt he’s going to view the next few years as anything remotely approach “soft”.


I got stuck at work a few weeks ago when a tornado came through Schaumburg. That sucked.

A few weeks prior I was stuck in a brewery when a tornado came through Batavia. That wasn’t so bad.


Well, if you’re gonna be stuck somewhere during a natural disaster…

I once got caught in a They Might Be Giants concert during a tornado, and that was pretty cool!


He resigned. His claim of medical issues seems weak. Seems more like a face saving maneuver on his part than anything else.

I’m not sure what he could’ve or should’ve done differently that would’ve resulted in a better outcome. The problems Maui faces are more systemic and related to crumbling infrastructure. Issues that can not be hung on a single individual.

There just weren’t adequate roads to allow for an evacuation regardless if the sirens had gone off or not.