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Meeting about Puna emergency routes slated Sunday

The community is invited to an info-sharing and info-gathering meeting at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in Volcano relating to future development of emergency routes throughout Puna. The session will be at the Volcano Art Center Niaulani Campus.

Volunteers are continuing to work on pinpointing possible alternative routes, and they seek input from residents of this vast district.

For study purposes, the district was divided into three sections. Sunday’s meeting will deal with “Volcano to Pahoa Connectivity &Emergency Evacuation Routes.” The session is being coordinated by Hawaii County Councilwoman Brenda Ford.

In January 2013, a new subcommittee of the Puna Community Development Plan was formed to address the connectivity priorities with a special emphasis on health, safety and emergency issues.

The Puna District has the fastest-growing population in Hawaii, with the 2010 census showing it exceeding Hilo’s population.

“Unfortunately, the infrastructure has not grown in proportion to people, and the need for alternate roads to exit in case of emergencies has become a top priority,” said Marlene Hapai, who chairs the Puna Community Development Plan Subcommittee on Connectivity and Emergency Response.

She and other members of this hands-on subcommittee will be at Sunday’s meeting.

At the end of August, this group partnered with the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency and — with the help of 300 volunteers and support of many public and private agencies, individuals and businesses — presented the inaugural Puna Regional Emergency Preparedness Fair at Keaau High School.

The second annual event is set for Saturday, Aug. 30, and everyone is invited to help in the planning and presentation of the fair.

The public also is invited to an open meeting about the planning underway for Puna’s future at 5 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Keaau Community Center.

Right now, participants are meeting with area communities to get comments about alternative routes between Volcano and Hawaiian Acres, Hawaiian Acres and Pahoa and from Pahoa to all of Puna’s makai communities.

Volunteers are surveying residents. If you haven’t gotten a survey, and would like one, send an email to mhapai@aol.com or pintonian@gmail.com, or write to CER Survey, c/o Patti Pinto, P.O. Box 711382, Mt. View, Hawaii 96771.

Pinto is the chair of the Puna Community Development Plan Action Committee. Meetings also can be scheduled with community groups.

“The purpose of the first Puna Regional Emergency Preparedness Fair was to help people become aware of the many things they need to do regarding emergency response, and to bring together as many Puna residents as possible to explore the deficiencies in connectivity between subdivisions, emergency access and alternative routes,” said Hapai. “Surveys were also taken indicating the level of emergency preparedness of various subdivisions and surrounding areas.”

Alternate emergency exit routes recommended by residents participating at the fair were prioritized according to “Criteria for Points of Connectivity” provided to the PCDP Action Committee and CER Subcommittee by the county and those taken from the PCDP. This is the beginning of the prioritization process.

At Sunday’s session, participants will be able to interact with volunteers working on this process, hear results of the PREP Fair survey and mapping, get an update on the status of community suggestions for emergency evacuation routes for Puna and join in a mapping activity to provide Volcano-area community suggestions for such routes.

Ultimately, three connectivity priority lists for the three areas will be forwarded to the county Department of Public Works and others able to implement road planning, funding and construction.


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