Ask the Mayor: Why Don’t Boil Water Advisories Reach Us Faster?

September 25, 2016, 12:00 PM HST · Updated September 25, 12:13 PM
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Boil water advisory. Maui Now graphic.

Boil water advisory. Maui Now graphic.

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the questions submitted to his office staff.

Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email at [email protected], call 270-7855 or send them by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.

Aloha Mayor:

Q: Today, Sept. 15, Central and South Maui residents and businesses are being advised to boil water after the heavy rains and flooding. That advisory took 24 hours to appear in The Maui News; it was on the online version of Honolulu Star-Advertiser yesterday.

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Why can’t the county access the emergency system that sends weather-related bulletins to phones (and radios/TVs), in order to put out guidance in an emergency? I realize those advisories are from the state, but the county has unique emergencies (fires on Honoapi‘ilani Highway, for instance) that the public should know about quickly.

A: Aloha and thank you for your question. The answer is that the county does have access to the Emergency Broadcast System; however, the contamination problem was not confirmed until after midnight. So even if we had taken over broadcast capabilities for radio and television to get the message out, very few people would have been awake to hear or see it.

As it was, we sent a press release out at 2 a.m. to our list of Hawai‘i media and followed up with phone calls to each individual TV station; by that morning it was the main story on all three early newscasts on KHON, KITV and Hawaii News Now.

The news was also broadcasted that same morning on local radio stations, including KONI, KAOI, the Pacific Media Radio group, KPMW and others.

Online, the advisory was posted on both the Maui Now and The Maui News websites.

The advisory was also posted on our Maui County website, sent out to the more than 5,500 subscribers who receive county news flash items, and posted on our county Facebook page and our county Twitter feed.

Besides the press release, at roughly 3 a.m., staff from my office began calling bakeries and grocery stores that start using water for consumption very early in the morning.

The state Department of Health also made individual phone calls to hundreds of restaurants and other businesses to make sure they were aware of the Boil Water Advisory.

One final consideration: The county uses an emergency alert system called “Makaala” and I encourage all residents to sign up for it. If you do sign up, you can choose to receive emergency alerts—like this boil water notice—on your home phone, mobile phone, work phone or email.

We did send our Boil Water Advisory using Makaala in the early morning hours of Sept. 15, as soon as the advisory was issued, and from what I understand, it worked perfectly for those who were signed up to receive such notices.

Please consider signing up for Makaala as well, at www.mauicounty.gov/civildefense.

Also remember to add television, radio and social media to your list of news sources. Mahalo.

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