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COVID-19 changes the playing field for hurricane season

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

While we’re just beginning to adjust to the new normal brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remember that being prepared for any disaster is an ongoing responsibility we all must embrace. Hurricane season has begun and, although it’s been predicted that activity will be near or below last year, with the ongoing pandemic, we have an individual and collective responsibility to ensure we are prepared for the worst.

COVID-19 has changed how our community will respond to disasters. Support and relief efforts are now further complicated with the implementation of social distancing and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies. It is essential for our community to be vigilant in our preparation and planning for any event.

As a former emergency medical responder, I’ve witnessed the devastating effects disasters can have on our community. While disasters bring forth challenging times, they also highlight the resilience, care and unity that make our island communities so special.

We are a community that cares for one another and always finds a way to pull together in times of need. As we approach hurricane season, with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, it is critical that we are keeping disaster preparedness top of mind.

Maui County has taken the right steps to prepare our community for a multitude of challenges but the hard reality is that there are not enough resources to support widespread disasters. In the event of a disaster, it could take longer than expected before help arrives, so it’s important that you have the necessary supplies in place to sustain your household for at least two weeks. Additionally, we all have unique needs that we must take personal responsibility for.

Some of the most effective ways to ensure you are prepared include:

• Having emergency contact information readily available and an out-of-area contact to serve as a relay point for family communication.

• Preparing at least two weeks of supplies, including extra phone chargers and batteries in case you need to call for help.

• Putting together an emergency survival kit (www.mauicounty.gov/203/ Emergency-Survival-Kit).

• Creating or learning about local disaster plans for your home, children’s school, medical and transportation providers, workplace, or areas your family frequents.

• Signing up for emergency alerts at mauicounty.gov/AlertCenter.aspx.

In addition to making sure we are prepared in our households, there are many ways we can support our loved ones, neighbors and community.

• Know how you’ll help people and pets who normally rely on you. If you are responsible for kupuna, a friend or even your dog, be sure you take their safety and needs into consideration.

• Form a neighborhood group to ensure you collectively have a clear plan of action. It’s important to talk to your neighbors and have people you can count on if the need should arise.

• Volunteer for organizations that may need support during a disaster. Organizations like Maui Red Cross or your local churches are always looking for volunteers, or you can donate to your local food banks.

• Attend a disaster skills workshops and learn basic survival skills. The county offers a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program that trains people on basic disaster response skills, including first aid and CPR classes.

Maui County has a long history of resilience and community kokua in the face of disaster. We stand together in the face of challenges and will continue to do so.

While natural disasters may be inevitable, it will be that much easier for us to take care of one another when those situations arise, if we all do our part to prepare now.

For more information and resources, visit www.mauicounty.gov/70/Emergency-Management-Agency.

* Tamara Paltin is chairwoman of the council Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee. She holds the council seat for the West Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters and appears the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.

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