A Maui government official said he does not regret his decision to not activate the emergency alert system as wildfires spread across the island.
Herman Andaya, who heads the Maui Emergency Management Agency, said he did not regret his decision to refrain from sounding the emergency sirens at a press conference Wednesday. Andaya argued that the sirens are generally intended for other purposes, according to CBS News.
Another official, appearing to be irritated, stepped in to argue with the reporter who asked Andaya if he regretted the decision.
Reporter grills Maui Emergency Operations Chief Herman Andaya over not sounding the alarm on Maui.
Andaya: “The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the sirens sounded. If that was the case, then they would’ve gone into the fire.” pic.twitter.com/pkOVEfUVwB
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) August 17, 2023
The emergency sirens are “used primarily for tsunamis,” Andaya said, noting that many of them “are found on the coastline.”
“The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the siren is sounded,” Andaya said. “In fact, on the website of the Hawaiian Emergency Management Agency, the following guideline is provided: ‘If you are in a low-lying area near the coastline, evacuate to high grounds.'”
Andaya said that if they had “sounded the siren that night” officials feared that “people would have gone mauka” (mountainside). (RELATED: Biden Announces Trip To Hawaii Nearly Two Weeks After Fires Began)
“If that was the case, then they would have gone into the fire,” Andaya said, adding that “there are no sirens mauka, or on the mountainside where the fire was spreading down. So, even if we sounded the sirens, it would not have saved those people on the mountainside, mauka.”