Sirens fail test


By TOM CALLIS

Tribune-Herald staff writer

The Big Island is continuing to have problems activating all of its 71 Civil Defense sirens following the Oct. 27 tsunami warning.

During the monthly siren test Monday, eight sirens were reported to have malfunctioned, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Coordinator Ben Fuata.

Four have since been repaired.

That’s in addition to the 13 sirens found to have failed during the tsunami warning and evacuation. Twelve of those have been repaired or replaced.

The county tests the sirens regularly, and the results from Monday were not surprising, Fuata said.

“I’d like to say no but in reality that seems to be in the norm and for various reasons,” he said.

Fuata said many of the sirens are old and fall victim to weather as well as insects.

Bugs also may be to blame for a siren at Kealakehe Elementary School being activated without warning Tuesday evening.

The siren activated at about 9:15 p.m. The Hawaii County Fire Department responded and was able to turn it off about 15 minutes later, Fuata said.

“They discovered that the siren control box was infested with a bunch of ants,” he said. “We don’t know for certain what the malfunction is.”

Fuata said a crew was dispatched Wednesday to further diagnose the problem. It may be fixed as early as today, he said.

Police radios can also interrupt the radio signals used to activate sirens, Fuata said.

The county’s siren problems are expected to be resolved through a statewide siren modernization program.

The state plans to replace 60 sirens on the Big Island by June 2014.

The new sirens will have solar panels and batteries for power rather than the electrical grid and a new satellite and cellular activation system rather than the continued use of radio transmissions. Fuata expects them to be more reliable.

The upgrades are expected to cost the state $511,000.

Twenty-eight sirens were scheduled to be upgraded this year but that has been pushed back to a yet-to-be-determined date due to a delay in awarding a bid, a state Civil Defense spokeswoman said last month.

Siren upgrades are scheduled to be completed on Oahu this month and in 2013 on Kauai and Maui.

The sirens that failed Monday are located at Kawailani Street in Hilo, the federal building in Hilo, Carvalho Park in Hilo, Honokaa, Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, Captain Cook, Hawaiian Paradise Park and Kehena.

The sirens at Carvalho Park, NELHA, Captain Cook and Kehena weren’t repaired as of Wednesday.

Fuata said they will be fixed within the next few days or next week.

A siren busted by a drunken driver in January 2011 in Hakalau will be replaced by January, he said.

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

 

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