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Wednesday, November 8, 2023
Lahaina Fires: House Working Groups recommend disaster response changes
By Selected News Articles @ 10:35 AM :: 3036 Views :: Maui County, Hawaii State Government

Hawaii lawmakers recommend disaster response changes

by Kim Jarrett, The Center Square, Nov 7, 2023

(The Center Square) - A working group of Hawaii lawmakers examining the state's food and supply response to the Lahaina wildfires recommends upgrades to the state's distribution management plan.

The Food, Water and Other Supplies working group meets Wednesday to discuss a draft report based on surveys of residents and government officials and research. The group is one of six studying the state's response to the fires in West Maui that devastated Lahaina.

One of the top obstacles to the Lahaina fire response was the lack of a comprehensive distribution plan for supplies.

"This absence can lead to inefficiencies in disaster response, potential misallocation of resources, and a lack of transparency in decision-making processes," they said.

Lawmakers said a state law creating a plan overseen by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency would eliminate the need for board meetings, but an advisory board would allow for more feedback.

The working group said more funding for food bank reserves that includes food for pets. The state's food bank, which usually has about three weeks of food on hand, was already low when the fire broke out in August, the draft report said.

Storage and funding are the current challenges, the group said.

"The Hawaii Food Bank's current warehouses on Oahu and Kauai are maxed out in terms of storage capacity, and the Oahu facility is also impacted by the tides (the road is covered with water every time the tide goes above 1.6 feet)," the report said. "There is a plan to build a new facility with significantly expanded storage capacity, and the Hawaii Food Bank is also looking at ways to store food in more vulnerable communities that are at risk of being cut off in a natural disaster."

Other recommendations to address food challenges are a "right to garden" law that allows residents to grow their food and guidelines for donating hot food.

Lawmakers should also consider a law allowing residents to get medication in disasters.

"We suggest converting the current pharmacy and medication authorization issued under the Governor's Emergency Proclamation into a statute," the group said. "In emergencies, this would enable pharmacies to refill prescriptions without a doctor's authorization, ensuring uninterrupted medication access for patients."

Gov. Josh Green on Monday extended the emergency proclamation for Maui through Jan. 5, 2024.

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News Release from Hawaii House of Representatives, Nov 1, 2023

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Speaker Scott K. Saiki today announced that six House Interim Working Groups draft reports are now available for public review on the Hawaiʻi State Capitol website.

"Over the past eight weeks, each working group has collaborated with federal, state, and county agencies, and community stakeholders to outline key issues and recommendations for the upcoming legislative session," said House Speaker Scott K. Saiki. "We encourage the public to review the draft reports and participate in meetings to offer input directly to the working groups."

On September 6, 2023, the House formed six bipartisan working groups to evaluate specific topics related to the Lāhainā wildfire and make recommendations for appropriate legislative action in the 2024 Regular Session. The groups include Wildfire Prevention, Shelter, Schools, Jobs and Business, Environmental Remediation, and Food, Water, and Other Supplies. Each group is assigned to produce a preliminary report by November 1, 2023, and deliver a final report by December 15, 2023.

The House working groups will hold public meetings on the substantive recommendations outlined in each draft report.

House Interim Working Groups Public Meetings

Location: Hawaiʻi State Capitol

November 8, 2023 | 2:00 p.m.

  • Food, Water, and Other Supplies Working Group
  • Conference Room 309

November 16, 2023 | 10:00 a.m.

  • Schools Working Group
  • Conference Room 309

November 17, 2023 | 10:00 a.m.

  • Wildfire Prevention Working Group
  • Conference Room 325

November 17, 2023 | 1:00 p.m.

  • Environmental Remediation Working Group
  • Conference Room 309

November 17, 2023 | 2:30 p.m.

  • Shelter Working Group
  • Conference Room 329

November 21, 2023 | 2:00 p.m.

  • Jobs and Business Working Group
  • Conference Room 329

The public is invited to participate in the meetings in-person or virtually. Meeting notices will be posted on the Capitol website, where members of the public can sign up for meeting alerts.

Those who may have limited access to the internet or internet-connected devices may utilize free public WiFi and computers at each of the State's public libraries and the bookmobile during operating hours. Please contact your local State public library for details.

The draft reports for the six working groups can be accessed here: www.capitol.hawaii.gov/house.aspx.


IM: State House Fire Related Working Groups Releases Reports & Establish Hearing Schedule

CB: Hawaii Lawmakers Propose 'Bold Action' To Address Wildfire Risk - Honolulu Civil Beat 

SA: Draft legislative wildfire reports available for public review


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