None of the 80 warning sirens positioned around Maui were activated by the emergency management agencies in response to the destructive Lahaina fire, according to a spokesperson on Saturday. Hawaii boasts the largest system of outdoor public safety warning sirens in the world, which are designed to blare in times of danger. Residents who survived the fire have expressed their confusion as to why the sirens were not activated. These sirens emit sounds at a high decibel level, louder than a rock concert, and can be heard from over half a mile away.
Adam Weintraub, the spokesperson for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, confirmed that the sirens were not activated. However, he emphasized that the sirens alone would not have indicated that residents should evacuate, but rather that they should seek additional information. Mr. Weintraub stated that other alert systems were activated, such as alerts sent to cellphones, as well as notifications through radio and television stations. Unfortunately, due to power outages in Lahaina on Tuesday, many residents claimed to have never received any warnings.
Mr. Weintraub mentioned that the agency would cooperate with the state attorney general’s review of the response to the fires. Maui’s fire chief, Bradford Ventura, explained earlier in the week that once the Lahaina fire intensified in the afternoon, fueled by strong winds, there was not enough time to alert emergency management officials to issue evacuation orders. Robin Ritchie, a long-time resident of the Lahaina area, shared that two of her friends were only saved from the encroaching fire because they heard their smoke detectors going off in their homes.
Ritchie expressed her anger, stating that the emergency sirens are tested once a month but were not sounded to announce the fires for unknown reasons. She believes that the lack of warning has resulted in deaths.