Tuesday | November 21, 2017
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Siren sounds by itself: Malfunctioning tsunami warning device breaks early morning silence in Honomu

Honomu residents were given an early morning wake up call Wednesday when a tsunami warning siren activated on its own.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said the siren began malfunctioning at or shortly after 1:30 a.m.

Police dispatchers and Civil Defense used radio signals to try to turn it off. After several attempts, the “cancel tones” got the job done shortly after 2 a.m., he said.

A fire crew dispatched to the scene shut it down completely to prevent the siren from malfunctioning again.

Oliveira said vegetation and other barriers can disrupt the signals.

It’s unclear what caused the siren to activate.

“Until the radio techs get out there and climb the pole and check out the siren, it’s hard to say what caused the malfunction,”Oliveira said.

Previously, such problems have been attributed to insects or geckos interfering with the equipment, he said.

“We really apologize for this,” Oliveira added. “It is a mechanical system and we will have situations like this occur, hopefully not frequently.

“Unfortunately, it was the worst time of the morning.”

Oliveira said police dispatch received several calls from frustrated residents.

State and county civil defense agencies are still gearing up for a siren upgrade project.

The $25.6 million statewide project will result in a new activation system based on satellite and cellular transmissions. That system will be more reliable, Oliveira said, when it comes to turning on and shutting off sirens. It also will increase the number of sirens on the island by 51, bringing the total number to 124.

Oliveira said he is waiting for a construction schedule from the state, which he expects soon.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


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