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Thursday, August 17, 2023
Andaya Quits: Was at Oahu 'Networking Event' as Lahaina Burned
By News Release @ 10:37 PM :: 2632 Views :: Maui County, Ethics

MEMA Administrator Submits Resignation Effective Immediately

News Release from Maui Mayor, August 17, 2023

Today Mayor Richard Bissen accepted the resignation of Maui Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Administrator Herman Andaya. Citing health reasons, Andaya submitted his resignation effective immediately.

“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,” Mayor Bissen said.

CNN:  Maui’s emergency management chief resigns, citing health reasons, a week after start of deadly wildfires

CB: Maui Mayor: Replacing Emergency Management Chief Will Take Time -- In the meantime, he said the No. 2 in command, Rocky Keohuhu-Bolor, “automatically takes over that position.”

  *   *   *   *   *

“It’s a good ol’ boy network. This time it cost lives.”

CB: … The Maui Emergency Management Agency had the authority to issue siren warnings that might have alerted people. After Andaya’s agency decided not to sound them, many survivors reported they only became aware of the fire when they saw and smelled smoke. …

Herman Andaya was not an expert in emergency management when he was hired to lead the Maui Emergency Management Agency in 2017. 

Trained in political science and the law, he has no formal education in disaster preparedness or response. And prior to his current role, he never held a full-time job dedicated to emergency management. 

Instead, his main qualification was being chief of staff to then-mayor Alan Arakawa….

Andaya wasn’t on the island when the fires started, and he hasn’t made any appearances at press conferences since the disaster occurred. …

In 2017, Andaya beat out 40 other applicants for the job, Maui Now reported at the time….

In July 2017, the chair of the Maui County Council at the time, Mike White, took the unusual step of writing a Maui News column warning that the job of emergency management was too important to be “subject to political influence.” …

He began his career clerking for Maui Judge Artemio Baxa. He then worked for the law office of Lynn Araki-Regan, an attorney who is the wife of Arakawa’s managing director, Keith Regan. 

When Andaya vacated his position as chief of staff, it was filled by Araki-Regan, who was by then the county budget director. Regan said he had no involvement in Andaya’s hiring.

From the early 2000s onward, Andaya has held leadership positions in Maui’s Department of Housing and Human Concerns and worked as the assistant to the chancellor of UH’s Maui College, according to his LinkedIn resume. He is married to Rowena Dagdag-Andaya, a former elementary school teacher who served as Maui’s public works director and now works in Maui’s Office on Aging.

Andaya was Arakawa’s chief of staff from 2011 through 2017. That year, the mayor appointed him acting administrator of MEMA, and he became permanent by the end of that year.

In contrast, Honolulu’s emergency management director, Hiro Toiya, has technical training in emergency response, worked for years as a preparedness planner for the Hawaii health department and rose up the ranks of Honolulu’s Department of Emergency Services. He worked there for more than seven years before becoming the director….

Asked about Andaya’s resume, David Hafner, a retired telecommunications planner for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, questioned whether his relative inexperience affected his agency’s performance in a crisis. 

“It’s a good ol’ boy network,” Hafner said. “This time it cost lives.”….

read … Was Maui's Emergency Operations Chief In Over His Head? - Honolulu Civil Beat

  *   *   *   *   *

Maui’s emergency management director was at Oahu conference as wildfires raged

HNN: … After a week of being noticeably absent from all news conferences Maui County Emergency Management Agency Director Herman Andaya addressed media for the first time Tuesday.

During a question-and-answer period, he acknowledged he was not on Maui last Tuesday.

“I was in Oahu attending a conference,” he said.

According to documents, Andaya was in Waikiki at the Alohilani Resort attending what was scheduled to be a three-day FEMA disaster preparedness seminar called the Pacific Partnership Meeting. A receipt from the hotel shows Andaya checked in last Monday, a day before the fire started. That same receipt lists a departure date of Aug. 9, the day after the Lahaina blaze.

What remains unclear is exactly what time Andaya left Oahu and returned to Maui — along with details about how much the administrator knew during the early stages of disaster response.

Because each media organization is limited to one question at news conferences, we were unable to get those answers on Wednesday.

According to the Pacific Partnership Agenda, the FEMA conference began Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. —after fires in Kula and Lahaina sparked.

According to Tuesday’s agenda, the day wrapped up with a networking reception at the hotel’s Longboard Club from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

That’s the same time that Lahaina was being engulfed in flames….

HNN Investigates is still trying to confirm if Andaya attended the conference alone or if other emergency officials from his office were with him.

HNN is also trying to track down who was there from the state’s emergency management office….

read … Maui’s emergency management director was at Oahu conference as wildfires raged

Maui emergency official makes excuses for decision not to sound sirens; Confirmed deaths now at 111

SA: … Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya today defended his experience and the decision not to activate sirens warning Maui residents about the fast-moving fire that destroyed the historic town of Lahaina last week.

Andaya said he did not regret his decision in response to a reporter’s question. Sirens are used primarily for tsunamis, not for brushfires, he said. The public is trained to seek higher ground when the siren is sounded, he said.

“Had we sounded the siren that night, we were afraid that people would have gone mauka,” he said, adding that people would have headed directly into the flames. Andaya added that there were no sirens located on the mauka or mountainside of Maui where the fires were spreading….

Hawaii’s siren system is described as the “largest single integrated public safety outdoor siren warning system in the world,” according to the County of Maui’s outdoor warning siren testing website. “The all-hazard siren system can be used for a variety of both natural and human-caused events; including tsunamis, hurricanes, dam breaches, flooding, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, terrorist threats, hazardous material incidents, and more,” the website said.

Andaya said the day of the fire most people were indoors with their air conditioning on, and they wouldn’t have heard the siren, especially with the winds gusting and blaring outside.

“I heard it was very loud. So they wouldn’t have heard the sirens,” he said.

Gov. Josh Green said the issue would be examined in a comprehensive review that he has ordered state Attorney General Anne Lopez to oversee and clarified that it is not a criminal investigation….

read … Maui emergency official defends decision not to sound sirens; Confirmed deaths now at 110

 

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