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Emergency officials offer tips with hurricane season in swing

The Maui News

State officials and the electric company urged Hawaii residents to assemble emergency kits and make other preparations as hurricane season began Tuesday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted two to five tropical cyclones for the Central Pacific hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30.

“Each year is a new opportunity to prepare ourselves for the many hazards we face in Hawaii,” Luke Meyers, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency administrator, said in a news release Tuesday. “Actions we take with our family and friends can help reduce the impacts that will come during this hurricane season.”

The agency recommends that residents:

• Know the hazards of where they live, work and play, such as trees, large loose objects or other features that can blow over and cause damage to property or people or areas that collect water or are prone to flooding or sliding. They should also check the condition of their gas pipes and clear potential fire hazards from around their home.

• Sign up for county alerts by visiting portal.ehawaii.gov/page/alerts/.

• Develop an emergency plan and go over it with family. The plan should include details like a safe and accessible meeting place for reuniting, the location of the nearest shelter and a communications plan for letting other family members know they are safe.

• Prepare an emergency kit with supplies that can last for at least two weeks, including water (one gallon per person per day), nonperishable food, a manual can opener, first aid kit, medications and/or special medical equipment such as an inhaler or EpiPen, a battery-operated or crank radio, extra batteries, flashlight, tools, warm clothes and sturdy shoes, personal hygiene items, toilet paper, pet supplies, a fire extinguisher, cash, ID and other important documents sealed in a waterproof plastic bag, comfort and entertainment items, charging cords for personal electronic devices and personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. People should also have a go-bag ready for work and their vehicle and should store potentially dangerous items such as gas or propane tanks in a safe, dry place out of reach of children.

• Consider flood and/or hurricane insurance at floodsmart.gov/hawaii.

• Take steps to strengthen homes against severe weather, including considering a hurricane retrofit or hurricane clips.

Hawaiian Electric said Tuesday that a major focus of its efforts to build resilience against storms involves reinforcing poles, lines and other equipment. The utility spent $18 million in 2020 to clear trees and vegetation from around power lines and equipment.

On Maui and Molokai, crews installed heavier, insulated conductors in tree-dense areas to help prevent vegetation-related outages in areas prone to trees and branches falling during high winds. On Lanai, the utility upgraded the way power is distributed in Lanai City to improve reliability, including the conversion of a 4-kilovolt power line to 12 kilovolts.

Hawaiian Electric also suggested that residents:

• Turn off and plug all unnecessary electric appliances and equipment during a storm or power outage, plugging back in only when power comes back on and is stable.

• Shut off electricity at the main breaker or switch if they need to evacuate.

• Consider having a backup generator if they are on an electrically powered life support system or make plans to go to an alternate location where electricity will be available. They should also be prepared to take medical equipment and medications with them.

• Learn how to properly operate the backup generator if their home or business has one.

• Prepare a list of emergency contacts including phone numbers for insurance agents, vendors, physicians and others.

• Assume downed power lines are energized and dangerous and stay at least 30 feet or more (at least two car lengths) away.

Customers can refer to the company’s Handbook for Emergency Preparedness at hawaiianelectric.com/prepare. Printed copies are available at public libraries or by calling (808) 543-7511.

They can also get updates by following Hawaiian Electric on Twitter or via its free mobile app.

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