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Maui's emergency manager resigns amid criticism over silent sirens

The director faced criticism for not using the island's warning sirens to alert residents of the fire.
Maui's emergency manager resigns amid criticism over silent sirens
Posted at 6:36 PM, Aug 17, 2023

The emergency management director for Maui, Herman Andaya, has resigned following criticism over his decision not to use the island's siren network to warn residents of the wildfire that killed at least 111 people.

Andaya cited health reasons when he tendered his resignation, which has immediate effect. Maui mayor Richard Bissen accepted the resignation.

"Given the gravity of the crisis we are facing, my team and I will be placing someone in this key position as quickly as possible and I look forward to making that announcement soon," Bissen said in a statement.

Residents who lost their homes to the fires raised repeated concerns about the early warning system, which is designed and branded as an "all-hazard" system and is frequently tested.

website maintained by Maui County says the system is meant to warn of "both natural and human-caused events; including tsunamis, hurricanes, dam breaches, flooding, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, terrorist threats, hazardous material incidents, and more."

SEE MORE: Maui latest: Death toll rises, schools reopen, new storm threats

Scripps News investigation this week found the sirens were not sounded, according to a representative of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Hawaii's attorney general is now investigating the broader response to the fires, including the decision not to use the sirens.

Andaya earlier defended a decision not to use the sirens, saying that since they frequently warn of tsunamis, he worried sounding them would have prompted residents to move inland, potentially toward fire activity.

"The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the siren is sounded," Andaya said.

He said the emergency agency typically warned of wildfire risks using other methods, including phone message alerts.

SEE MORE: Maui fires are another disaster in which warning sirens stayed silent

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