Residents alarmed by handful of silent sirens


A computer glitch is being blamed for several tsunami warning sirens initially failing to activate Saturday as residents were ordered to evacuate the coast.

Hawaii County sounded the alarms at 8:15 p.m. but an estimated 8 to 10 are believed to have failed to respond, said Assistant Police Chief Marshall Kanehailua.

The glitch occurred when the Police Department started the automatic activation process, which is supposed to set them off all at once, he said.

The department, which manages the 71 sirens along with Civil Defense, learned of sirens staying silent through officers in the field, Kanehailua said.

The problem was fixed the second time around at about 9:15 p.m. when the sirens were activated manually from the dispatch center in Hilo, he said.

Kanehailua said he knew of sirens being delayed in Keaukaha, Hawaiian Paradise Park, and possibly Kohala.

Melissa Morris said a siren a block from her home in Nanawale Estates also failed to activate on time.

Morris said she lives a safe distance from the ocean but is concerned that the delay made the level of danger unclear.

“It’s pretty alarming,” she said, “especially when they did not know what the exact wave height would be.”

Police also received calls of a siren not activating in Papaikou.

A siren in that community remains broken, Kanehailua said. It’s scheduled to be fixed by the end of the year.

The assistant chief said no glitches occurred during the monthly siren test in early October.

The next test is scheduled for Thursday, and police and fire personnel will be staged at sirens to ensure they activate, he said.

State Civil Defense performed maintenance on some sirens last week, said Ben Fuata, county Civil Defense administrator.

“It was the combination of scheduled service of some of the sirens and to take care of some of the repairs of some of the sirens,” he said.

It’s unclear if any work on the Papaikou siren occurred.

A state Civil Defense spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a request for information on the repairs Monday.

Additionally, eight burglaries were reported to have occurred in Keaukaha during the evacuation, said Capt. Robert Wagner.

The burglaries all occurred along Kalanianaole Avenue, he said.

Cash, jewelery, and other items typically targeted during a break-in were stolen, Wagner said.

Information on the burglaries can be reported by calling 961-2289.