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Column: COVID-19 a hurricane-season challenge

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  • Luke P. Meyers (HI-EMA)

    Luke P. Meyers (HI-EMA)

This hurricane season promises to be a different type of challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented incident that will change how our Islands must respond to a tropical system.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is responding to this double threat with increased planning between our county, state, federal and private partners. But a vital part of our preparations begins with the community.

In addition to our recommended 14-day emergency kits that should include enough water, food, medicine and other essential items, we are also asking that you add face masks and hand sanitizers.

Continuing to thoroughly wash hands, wear face masks and practice physical distancing still go a long way toward mitigating potential spread of the virus as the state reopens its beaches, restaurants, travel between islands, and other businesses and activities.

Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30, and discussing a plan with family and friends is crucial during these uncertain times.

Start to secure your home now before a storm impacts the state. Clear debris that could be picked up by high winds and identify the safest place in your home to gather. When a storm progresses and causes area flooding or compromises infrastructure, emergency officials will advise those affected to evacuate and head to an active shelter.

Because of the dangers of community spread due to COVID-19, shelters will be operating at a much lower capacity than in the past due to physical distance safety guidelines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sheltering in place in your home is, in most cases, the best option. Active shelters should only be considered if you do not have a home or a relative’s place to shelter.

We encourage you to discuss your emergency plan with your family. Do you know who in your family may need a place to shelter? How many people should you consider in preparing the 14-day supply of food and water?

It is up to each one of us to get ready for the worst-case scenarios and have our kits and plans in place when that time comes, and in the days and weeks that follow.

Consider investing in flood insurance. This action can be helpful for homes and businesses that flood whether you are in a flood plain or not.

Hurricane retrofits and hurricane clips are helpful to keep your home or business in one piece following the next storm.

Two to six tropical storms or hurricanes are predicted for the Central Pacific area this season. But all it takes to devastate our homes with severe damage is one.

Please be prepared.

Luke P. Meyers is administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

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