Herman Andaya, the administrator of Maui’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA), had no prior experience in disaster response before taking on his role in the county government’s crisis response agency, according to CBS News.
The EMA is reportedly the agency responsible for setting off emergency sirens which did not blare as devastating wildfires engulfed huge swaths of Maui and killed at least 110 people, CBS News reported. Andaya was reportedly hired for the job in 2017, beating out 40 other qualified candidates for the role, according to local outlet Maui Now.
Andaya’s prior experience indicates that he worked for six years as the mayor of Maui’s chief of staff, from 2011-2017, and as a bureaucrat in Maui’s housing administration for four years between 2003 and 2007, according to his LinkedIn profile. None of the other roles listed in his career history pertain to emergency operations or other related fields. (RELATED: Biden Announces Trip To Hawaii Nearly Two Weeks After Fires Began)
REPORTER: “Mr. President, any comment on the rising death toll in Maui?”
BIDEN: “No. no comment.”
REPORTER 2: “Will you come talk about the Hawaii response, Mr. President?”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) August 14, 2023
In July 2017, the month that Andaya took over at Maui EMA, Mike White, the chair of the Maui County Council at the time, wrote in a local news column that the “position should not be subject to political influence or affiliation” because of its importance.
Andaya said Wednesday that he does not regret choosing not to sound the warning sirens, citing his belief that they are to be used in the event of a tsunami and that the siren alerts would have prompted people to run toward high ground and headlong into the fires, according to CBS News. However, the sirens are intended for use in many other emergency situations, including wildfires, according to the official website of Hawaii’s EMA.
Andaya further defended his inaction by explaining that the agency’s “internal protocol” for fire situations is to utilize text alerts sent to cell phones, and alerts sent via television and radio, according to CBS News. The fires were so intense and rapid that many of these alerts either did not go through or were not received, and numerous survivors said that they were unaware of the fires until they saw them or smelled smoke, according to CBS News.
The failure of the emergency sirens to sound off stands as one of several reported shortcomings of the local and state governments, which in tandem may have contributed to making the fires an even graver catastrophe. Other such reported failures include years of questionable land management practices, a lack of available water for firefighters to battle the blazes, the state utility company’s alleged failures to increase the safety of its existing infrastructure and the disconnection of the local 911 emergency service.
“The Office of the Attorney General is conducting a comprehensive review of critical decision-making and standing policies leading up to, during and after the wildfires on Maui and Hawaiʻi islands this week,” an EMA spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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