Draft plan aims at West Maui disaster preparedness

After flooding from tropical storms Lane and Olivia and the Aug. 24 wildfires that burned more than 2,000 acres from Maalaea to Kaanapali, the release of a draft West Maui all hazard plan comes as public attention is focused on how to prepare for and respond to emergencies.

And, West Maui Taxpayers Association President Joe Pluta said Wednesday that public engagement is key to successful emergency planning.

“The best plan in the world on a shelf isn’t helping anyone,” he said. “People have to be willing to be part of a plan when and if an emergency happens.”

The 60-page draft plan can be found and downloaded on the association’s website at www.westmaui.org/emergency-planning.html.

Public comments are being sought, especially from people who live and work in West Maui, a community vulnerable to isolation because of two-lane highways connecting it to the rest of the island.

The current plan is the product of 14 months of work by association members in cooperation with the Pacific Disaster Center based in Kihei, the county Maui Emergency Management Agency and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency headquartered at Diamond Head Crater on Oahu and one of six divisions in the state Department of Defense.

And, work on the plan is ongoing, Pluta said. “We still need to do organizational charts,” he said.

Volunteers are being sought to take part in planning and implementation plans when emergencies arise, he said. A plan “doesn’t help anyone unless people are actually using and getting involved with it,” he added.

In the wake of recent wildfires and flooding, the association plans to reach out to “people off the grid,” such as those affected by wildfires in Kauaula Valley and by flooding in Honokohau Valley, he said.

“We want them to get in touch with us,” Pluta said. “We want them to be part of this.”

While the plan sets up an organizational framework, describes lines of authority and provides emergency planning information for different kinds of disasters, it doesn’t substitute for individual responsibility.

“Just because we have this plan doesn’t mean people don’t have to take care of themselves,” Pluta said.

The first page of the draft plan contains a disclaimer: “This plan . . . does not replace common sense, sound judgment and prudent actions in response to a disaster. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this plan. However, the West Maui Community Preparedness Committee along with the Maui Emergency Management Agency and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency assume no responsibility and disclaim any liability for any injury or damage resulting from the use or effects of the products of information specified in this plan. Disaster preparedness is an individual responsibility.”

Pluta said he hopes that disaster preparedness planning will be part of the upcoming West Maui Community Plan update.

He said he believes the Maui County administration is working behind the scenes to assess the county’s response to the recent tropical storms and wildfires.

That will be an issue for candidates for elected office to discuss in a tentatively scheduled Oct. 24 association forum at the Lahaina Senior Center. Dinner is at 5 p.m., and the program begins a half hour later.

Candidates will be asked about the county’s disaster response because the community has “not been necessarily delighted with how everything worked,” he said.

The candidate forum had been set for Oct. 18, but the date and location needed to be moved because of renovation work at the Lahaina Civic Center, he said.

For more information, contact Pluta at the association at 661-7990 or send email to wmta@maui.net.

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.


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