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Maui Representative: Warning Sirens ‘Likely Didn’t Go Off’ Before Wildfires

August 14, 2023 | By Kali Girl

In a recent interview on “Face the Nation,” U.S. Representative Jill Tokuda expressed concern that the warning sirens possibly failed to activate as the swiftly moving wildfire approached Maui’s historic town of Lahaina. The death toll continues to rise and has now reached 96, reports CBS News.

“Everybody who has ever lived in Hawaii knows the warning sirens. It goes off once a month, every month, at 12 noon and it blares. And if it doesn’t, it gets fixed because that is our first line of defense,” Tokuda said during an appearance on “Face the Nation” Sunday. 

“Sadly, tragically, in this situation those sirens likely did not go off,” said the congresswoman, whose district includes Maui. She also suggested that warning signals normally sent to mobile phones could have been impacted by mass power outages reported on Maui when the wildfires broke out.

“Those outages likely prevented people from accessing useful information about the nature of the warning and guidance on how they should proceed,” Tokuda added.

“The reality is, with those warning signs, it tells all of us to turn on the television or look on our phones or turn on the radio,” she said. “With how fast this burn was … if you turned on your phone, if you turned on a radio, if you even could…you would not know what the crisis was. You might think it’s a tsunami, by the way, which is our first instinct. You would run towards land, which in this case would be towards fire.”       

The state’s outdoor warning siren system, designed to alert residents about various emergencies such as wildfires, hurricanes, and tsunamis, reportedly failed to activate.

Hawaii’s all-encompassing siren system signals for natural disasters and human-caused events. From tsunamis to wildfires, the battery-powered, solar-charged sirens cover a wide range.

According to the website, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency manages alerts for hurricanes, dam breaches, flooding, volcanic eruptions, terrorist threats, and hazardous materials.

The devastating wildfires have taken 93 lives in Maui, destroying 2,200 structures, including homes, vehicles, and leaving historic Lahaina town in ruins. Hawaii hasn’t faced a natural disaster this deadly since becoming a state in 1959.

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