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Sign up for emergency alerts

By Staff | Jun 4, 2015

The Pacific hurricane season began June 1, and forecasters this year predict increased tropical cyclone activity for the Central Pacific region.

With 22 named storms prowling the Pacific, 2014 was the fourth most active hurricane season since record-keeping began in earnest in 1949.

Striking in early August, Hurricane Iselle was the most powerful tropical cyclone to make landfall on the Big Island in recorded history.

We saw an unnerving number of storms take dead aim at Hawaii last summer, and we were lucky yet again. Is this the year we get hit?

With the formation of Tropical Storm Andres off the coast of Mexico last week, the county urged residents to sign up for “Maka’ala,” Maui County Civil Defense’s new Emergency Alert System.

According to Maui County, Andres is an important reminder of the need to be prepared for this storm and the several other systems predicted to form this year.

“Maka’ala translated from Hawaiian means to be alert, aware and vigilant, and we want residents to be just that,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa. “We have had a number of tropical storms, hurricanes, tsunamis and other emergency events hit Maui County in recent years, and Maka’ala notifications will allow people to watch out for the next emergency event and hopefully enable them to stay out of harm’s way.”

Maka’ala allows Maui Civil Defense officials to create customized messages for residents who register for it. The emergency alerts can be sent directly to mobile devices or personal computers. If subscribers do not have an electronic device, Maui Civil Defense will call their home phone – but only during “warning” level events such as a flash-flood warnings or hurricane warnings.

Maui County Emergency Management Officer Anna Foust said that along with assembling an emergency kit and having an evacuation plan, residents should sign up for the Maka’ala updates as another way to stay prepared.

“The Maka’ala notifications will enable us to create targeted public messages, which will better serve us during times of emergency,” Foust said. “For example, if we have to evacuate all Kahului residents living in the tsunami inundation zone, all Kahului residents who have signed up for the Maka’ala service who are in that particular area will be geo-coded and receive a message letting them know how much time they have to get to higher ground.

“This will enable residents to be alerted sooner, which could possibly save lives by giving them more time to react,” Foust noted. “Our Civil Defense staff will be working hard to urge as many Maui residents as possible to sign up for these new emergency alerts.”

A sample message during an emergency to Maka’ala users could read: “You are in a tsunami inundation zone and will need to evacuate the area by ___ time. Your nearest emergency shelter is located at ___.”

To sign up for the Maka’ala Emergency Alert System online, visit the Maui County website at www.mauicounty.gov, click on the “Emergency Services” tab on the left, then click on “Maka’ala Maui County Emergency Alert System.”

Residents who do not have a computer or other electronic device may call the Maui County Civil Defense Office at 270-7285 and ask to be signed up over the phone. Additionally, volunteers will be taking sign-ups at the Maui County Disaster Preparedness Expo on Saturday, June 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center.

Information is key during an emergency. Sign up to receive the latest warnings and tips from Civil Defense.