LIHUE, Kauai — With two storms slowly churning their way toward Hawaii, a new survey of Kauai emergency preparedness finds only 44% of households have the recommended 14-day supply of nonperishable food and 28% have 14 days’ worth of drinking water.
Worse, though, the new report found only 18% percent of households have both.
Those are two conclusions of a survey conducted by the Hawaii Department of Health. The Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response has only been used on Kauai, though both Maui and Hawaii island health department offices are said to be interested in replicating the methodology and Oahu’s public health office has experimented with the concept.
Teams of health department staff and volunteers visited households and administered questionnaires in person. Completed in early July, the Kauai survey reached 237 households, with full questionnaires being completed for 186.
Key results include:
• 62% of households had communications plans; 69% had copies of important documents in a safe location ready for quick evacuation and 48% had designated a meeting place.
• While only 44% of households had the recommended 14 days of food, 74% reported having seven days’ worth and 90% had a three-day food supply. And though just 28% had a 14-day supply of drinking water, 48% had seven days and 76% had three days’ worth.
• 32% of households indicated they would try to ride out a Category 5 hurricane — the most powerful type — by sheltering in place at home, while 75% said they would do so for a Category 1 storm, the least powerful hurricane. Only 9.7% of households would go to a public hurricane shelter in the event of a Category 1 storm, while 37% would do so for a Category 5.
• In households with pets, 79% said they had emergency supplies ready for their animals. A total of 64% reported pet ownership.
The emphasis on a 14-day supply of emergency provisions was driven by a change in state recommendations in 2017 — word of which has been slow to get out, with just 47.6% of households even aware of it, according to the survey.
“This year’s CASPER data demonstrate that significant improvements have been made in the preparedness level of Kauai households,” said Lauren Guest, a public health preparedness planner in the department’s Lihue office and the person who designed and coordinated the survey.
“Overall, 18% of Kauai households now meet the 14-day recommendation of food and water in their emergency kit compared to 14% in 2018. Although this percentage has increased over the past year, there is enormous opportunity for improvement in this area.”
“There is always more that can be done to increase household-level preparedness,” Guest said. “If your household does not currently have a 14-day supply of food, water and prescription medications for all household members, then this is one of the most important steps you can take.
“In addition to supplies, please make sure that you and your household members have a plan for what to do and where to go for hurricanes, tsunamis, and other emergencies.”
Padraic Gallagher, Kauai coordinator for the American Red Cross, said “the biggest takeaway from the data is not so much the numbers but the messaging.”
“The numbers are pretty much on track with our planning assumptions, but we have been talking the same message since I have been with the Red Cross and I think we need to do a better job of getting our message out. The numbers show we need to work harder at it. There is no such thing as being over-prepared.”
The static nature of the results — the proportion of households with 14 days worth of food and water increased just 4% since last year — prompted a recommendation in the new CASPER for a statewide campaign regarding the new 14-day recommendations and to raise awareness of not just hurricane preparedness, but tsunami evacuation zones and evacuation plans.
“Community preparedness and resilience are ongoing endeavors that never truly end,” said Elton Ushio, head of Kauai’s Emergency Management Agency.
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