Sirens were silent during the Lahaina fire. Maui’s emergency chief says he doesn’t regret it

Jeremy Childs | Los Angeles Times (TNS)

As officials review the emergency response to the Lahaina fire and what could have been done differently, one question continues to pop up: Why weren’t there sirens?

Herman Andaya, who leads Maui’s Emergency Management Agency, addressed the issue during a Wednesday afternoon news conference that grew tense at times as reporters asserted that the decision not to use sirens could have led to loss of life.

“Do you regret not sounding the sirens?” asked a reporter with CBS News.

“I do not,” Andaya responded.

RELATED: Paradise deploys warning sirens as 5-year anniversary of deadly fire approaches

The island’s outdoor siren system was designed for tsunamis, not wildfires, he said, and is not part of the agency’s standard response protocol.

“The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the siren has sounded,” he said.

Instead, Andaya explained, the agency used several other types of emergency notifications to alert people to the fire. Some of the systems used were wireless emergency alerts, which send text messages to residents, and the emergency alert system, which broadcasts emergency notifications via television and radio. Other local alert systems, such as MEMA alerts, have also been used in the past.

“It is our practice to use the most effective means of conveying an emergency message to the public during a wildland fire,” Andaya said.

Andaya also noted many of the sirens are along the coastline, not on the mountain side of Lahaina, which is where the fire ignited.


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