As folks collected water, food and gasoline from nearby stores, a small subset of the population gathered additional supplies.
These Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members collected their HAM radios, triage and first aid supplies, checked flashlight batteries and scanned training materials to quickly refresh search and rescue procedures as they prepared for the worst, and of course, hoped for the best.
CERT members are graduates of a 28-hour series of courses that provided them with hands-on training on disaster response procedures. Maui Fire Department officials may deploy the volunteers to help them in search and rescue, triage and first aid, as needed.
After being contacted by a CERT regional coordinator, volunteers began to congregate early Saturday morning at their predetermined center of operations—Jesus is Alive Church in Pukalani. Although the group meets once a quarter to sharpen their skills, for many, this was the first time they gathered for an impending disaster.
They were high and dry at 1,500 feet on that beautiful tsunami Saturday, as many CERT members discussed what the day might hold, hoping and praying that no one, with all the advanced warning available, would try to ride out a tsunami by remaining in an inundation zone. But it was a possibility they had to face. Many were silently steeling themselves against the unknown.
As radio reports flooded in, everyone listened intently, some peering through camera lenses and binoculars at Kahului Harbor below. Initial reports estimated that the tsunami level would be nearly 10 feet. Volunteers tried to imagine the damage an inundation of that height would cause.
At 11:25, when the tsunami was expected to affect the harbor, there was nothing, or at least not much. The tsunami must be on Hawai‘i-time, volunteers said, laughing nervously.
The tsunami that eventually hit the harbor was later reported at one meter. We dodged another bullet, everyone said, and the only damage to life and limb reported that day were sunburns of varying degrees.
We may be already looking at this as old news, a quickly fading memory—but we should look at this from the perspective of how prepared, or unprepared we were for this “Tsunami Saturday.” Our tsunami dry run should remind us that we need to know exactly what to do in times of emergency.
If you found yourself wishing you were better prepared to help yourselves and others last Saturday, enroll for free CERT training by contacting Maui Civil Defense at 270-7285.