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by Jontue A. Martin

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States last month. If a hurricane were to hit Hawai‘i, will you or your classmates at HPU know what to do? Where to go? Who to call for help? If you didn’t follow the Honolulu Advertiser’s week long series on hurricane preparedness, here are some answers to questions you should ask now, before it is too late and a hurricane is upon us.

Hawai‘i is a hot spot for hurricanes because of its tropical weather and Central Pacific location. The last hurricane that struck the Hawai‘i was Sept. 11, 1992. At 5:30 a.m. Hurricane Iniki, a category 5 storm, hit the island of Kaua‘i head on. The neighbor islands got heavy rain and high tides, but some parts of Kaua‘i still have not been rebuilt.

What will happen with the next hurricane is unpredictable. The National Weather Service projects a 70 percent chance of above normal hurricane activity in 2005, while William Gray, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University predicted 15 named storms during the 2005 Hurricane Season, well above the long term average of 9.6. We’ve already had them, and the season is not over.
Immediate preparation for a hurricane means building a supply kit that includes sufficient amounts of water—a gallon per person per day—and nonperishable food, enough for three to seven days, (including special food for infants and elderly). See checklist, this page, for what else it should include.

Protecting your home means arranging security and insurance coverage in advance, as well as wood to cover windows, plastic sheeting to cover furnishings if the roof blows off, and lumber to reinforce roofs and doors.

Long range preparations include even more options, from plywood clips designed to allow easy storm shutter installation to roof straps that actually lock your roof beams to the struts that form the walls of your home.

Living in an area that is a hurricane hot spot, Hawai‘i homeowners must look into hurricane and flood insurance. These options must be purchased separately from homeowner’s insurance. Right after Iniki, homeowners hurricane insurance was required by law and paid into a state hurricane fund. More recently private insurers, notably Zephyr, have taken over.

Flood insurance is separate from this. Look in the front of the telephone directory for maps that indicate areas that flood easily during storms and tsunamis. If you live in or even near one of these areas, consider arranging flood insurance.

If your home is in an area susceptible to flooding, flood insurance may be possible through one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood insurance program. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), for example, provides coverage that individuals cannot get it with their homeowner’s insurance. NFIP can be contacted through the O‘ahu Civil Defense Agency.
You might also visit one of the numerous Web sites such as accurcoverage-.com, which provides information about wind and flood insurance and advice on restoring homes and finding financial help to pay for damage repairs.

When a hurricane occurs, community shelters are provided in endangered communities throughout the state. Normally, a family’s shelter is the school nearest their home. To be sure, call the O‘ahu Civil Defense Agency at (808) 523-4121.

Shelters may be opened selectively depending on the severity of a storm or other incidents. The radio and television will broadcast shelter designations and opening schedules. Shelters are on a first come, first serve basis and will not accept pets. You must bring your own emergency supplies.

If you are unable to get to a shelter and must stay in your home, look for a storm-safe room: a roomy downstairs closet without windows or skylight, located in the center of your home—i.e., without and exterior walls. Limited access—only one door—and several walls surrounding it enhance security.

For more information about hurricane preparedness, contact the O‘ahu Civil Defense Agency at (808) 523-4121.


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