Top Maui emergency management official resigns: Report

August 19, 2023
Robert Ayers

NBC News reports that the top emergency management official of Maui has resigned. 

This top official is Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya.

Andaya's resignation came on Thursday, which was the day after he defended himself against criticism that he received for not sounding Maui's warning sirens as wildfires swept across the island.

Andaya's resignation was announced on the County of Maui's Facebook page.

"Health reasons"

The press release claims that Andaya resigned due to "health reasons."

The Facebook post reads, "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."

The press release goes on to provide a statement from Bissen.

"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.

But, many are wondering whether "health reasons" are the real cause of Andaya's resignation or whether the cause is actually the criticism that he was facing for not activating Maui's emergency system.

Andaya's defense

As stated earlier, the day before Andaya submitted his resignation, he held a press conference at which he attempted to defend himself against the criticism that he was receiving for not activating Maui's siren warning system.

NPR reports:

At a press conference on Wednesday, Andaya was asked whether he regretted choosing not to sound the sirens. "I do not," he said. He said that the sirens were primarily used for tsunamis and that if they had sounded them, they were afraid people would have gone "mauka" — or toward the mountain. "And if that was the case," he said, "then they would have gone into the fire."

In other words, Andaya's excuse for not setting off the sirens is that he did not set the sirens off because they would have caused people to run toward the wildfires, which could have resulted in even more casualties.

The legitimacy of this excuse is unclear. But, NPR goes on to report, "Residents in West Maui have expressed skepticism, and even outrage, at the idea that sirens would have prompted people to run towards the fire. Many say they thought it would have helped."

The official government website of Hawaii states:

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.

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