Haleiwa El marks Tsunami Awareness Month with evacuation drill


Students at Haleiwa Elementary School took part in a campus wide tsunami evacuation drill today to help the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) kick off Tsunami Awareness Month.

HALEIWA — Students at Haleiwa Elementary School took part in a campus wide tsunami evacuation drill today to help the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) kick off Tsunami Awareness Month. April was chosen as the month to honor the 159 lives lost during a massive tsunami that struck Hawaii on April 1, 1946, and caused widespread damage to the state.

At 11:45 a.m., outdoor warning sirens sounded as part of the monthly statewide test. It was also the moment when Haleiwa Elementary students performed a schoolwide evacuation drill. More than 220 students, faculty and staff moved calmly and quickly in an orderly fashion to gather near the front entrance to the school for the drill. Normally, the Joseph P. Leong Highway serves as the school's evacuation meeting site since it is well out of the tsunami evacuation zone.

"Evacuation drills are essential when it comes to protecting our children. It's good to know that when our children are away at school they have the skills and mindset needed to react quickly should evacuation become necessary," said Vern Miyagi, Administrator of Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Following the evacuation drill, students proceeded to the school's cafeteria for a special presentation. School Principal Malaea Wetzel was presented with concurrent proclamations by HI-EMA on behalf of Governor David Ige and the Oahu Department of Emergency Management on behalf of Mayor Kirk Caldwell, recognizing the importance of tsunami awareness and preparedness.

"Seconds count in an actual tsunami event and today's evacuation drill teaches our students and staff how to properly prepare," said Hawaii State Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.  "Haleiwa Elementary is one of 12 public schools on Oahu located within the Tsunami Evacuation Zone and students and faculty must be prepared to leave campus quickly and safely at a moment's notice to head for higher ground. Across the state we have 24 public schools located in Tsunami Evacuation Zones."

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), headquartered in Pearl Harbor and operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), monitors seismic data across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to calculate the potential risk of a tsunami. During a real life tsunami threat, PTWC will put out messages and statements to the public that interpret the scientific data and advise on the level of risk associated with any given threat.

The public should understand what the different risk levels are and how to respond accordingly:

WarningA potential tsunami with widespread inundation is imminent or expected. Widespread, dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful currents is possible and may continue for several hours after the arrival of the initial wave. Move to higher ground immediately. 
AdvisoryA potential tsunami, which may produce strong currents or waves, exists. Significant widespread inundation is not expected. Stay tuned to local media for emergency guidance. 
WatchA potentially dangerous distant seismic event has occurred, which may later impact the watch area with a tsunami. Be ready to take action if a warning is issued.
An earthquake has occurred or a tsunami warning, watch or advisory has been issued for another section of the ocean. In most cases, information statements are issued to indicate there is no threat of a destructive tsunami in your area. 

To find out if you live, work or play within a tsunami evacuation zone, turn to the disaster preparedness pages in your local telephone book or enter your address into the Tsunami Evacuation Zone Map Viewer on HI-EMA's website at dod.hawaii.gov/hiema.

Contact Information

Donalyn Dela Cruz

Phone: 808-586-3232

Email: donalyn_dela_cruz@hawaiidoe.org


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