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AARP Hawai`i Supports Hau`ula’s Efforts to Be Disaster Ready

AARP Hawai`i is supporting efforts to help Hau`ula prepare for disasters by donating 100 emergency to-go backpacks to kupuna in the region.

The first backpacks were distributed to kupuna at a breakfast meeting and disaster preparation talk at the Hau`ula Civic Center on Friday, Aug. 13. The backpacks contain a personal hygiene kit, sanitizer, first-aid kit, water bottle, emergency blanket, insect repellent, duct tape and a checklist of items for a complete emergency kit.  The Hau`ula Community Association added emergency food rations to the backpack.

Hau`ula is especially vulnerable to storms and tsunami. Streams regularly flood and close Kamehameha Highway, the community’s only lifeline to the rest of Oahu.  A major hurricane or tsunami would cause even more damage, destroying up to 85 percent of the homes and leaving residents without electricity and clean water for days or even weeks if the highway and powerlines are wiped out, said Dotty Kelly-Paddock, president of the Hau`ula Community Association and executive director of Hui o Hau`ula, a nonprofit that is working with Ko`olauloa communities in Windward Oahu to prepare for natural disasters.

“We’re literally at the level of the ocean. If we get a tsunami our whole area would be wiped out and hurricane, same thing, because it can generate the high waves, so we would be totally stranded out here,” said Ginny Alatasi, a Hau`ula resident who received an AARP emergency backpack today.

The Hau`ula Community Association began working with the state, city and federal agencies in 2010 to plan and organize for disasters. Residents know to check on each other and on vulnerable kupuna in the event of a hurricane or tsunami warning.

“We’ve formed block captains to alert people. Like on my street there are 22 houses and I’m a block captain there and whenever we get a warning, we just go house to house and let people know there’s a potential tsunami,” Alatasi said.

“We thank AARP for offering these wonderful backpacks. These backpacks are to-go packs so kupuna can learn more, first hand, about how you prepare to go out that door and go to a shelter. Leave the coast because the storm swells are very large the winds will be very bad,” Kelly-Paddock said.

“We’re also really happy that Hauula has organized as a community to help each other and especially to help kupuna,” said Craig Gima, AARP Hawai`i communications director. “We encourage every community to be like Hau`ula, to have a disaster plan, to organize as a community, to help each other during a disaster.”

The state, city and federal government offers assistance to communities that want to prepare for a disaster.. More information is available from the Hawai`i Emergency Management Agency at http://dod.hawaii.gov/hiema/resources/hharp/.  Kelly-Paddock said anyone interested in learning how Hau`ula organized and who want to join Oahu’s Community Resilience Network can contact her at dotty.kellypaddock@gmail.com.

In addition to organizing and educating community members about disaster preparation, Hui O Hau`ula is also lobbying for federal, state and city funds to build a $20 million community and health center that can also be used as an emergency shelter and community resilience hub for the entire Ko`olauloa region on state land on high ground in the back of the valley.

“It’s so important that we have a resilience hub here because there is not one shelter between Kaneohe and all the way to Waialua. That’s about a 40-mile stretch of highway and we don’t have any shelters to go to. So a lot of people first realized that when Hurricane Douglas came by. It was a big picture in the front of the newspaper that showed where all the emergency shelters were, not one in Ko`olauloa. So this is a critical need in this area.”

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