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Hawaii ARES Volunteers Firming Up Plans for Possible Lava Flow Activation


Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers on the Big Island of Hawaii are putting plans in place in case they need to activate in response to the Puna lava flow, reported today (October 29) to be 100 yards from the nearest home and with another 40 to 50 homes in its path. On October 28, the lava claimed its first structure — a shed in Pahoa. The lava originated from new “vents” in the Earth as a result of the Mt Kilauea volcano, which began erupting more than 30 years ago. After grinding to a halt nearly a month ago, the lava flow recently resumed its slow and devastating crawl toward populated areas. Residents in the path of the flow have been notified of a possible need to evacuate, and an evacuation advisory for down-slope residents remains in effect.

Lava flows are nothing new to many Hawaiians; ARRL Pacific Section Manager Bob Schneider, AH6J, has called them “a slow-motion disaster.” In September ARRL deployed Ham Aid kits to Hawaii for a possible lava flow response then. As it turned out, ARES members there needed the gear for Hurricane Ana first, since the lava flow had abated by the time the equipment got to Hawaii.


Schneider told ARRL Headquarters this week that District Emergency Coordinators have been establishing area-specific ARES standard operating procedures in the event of an activation. “[East Hawaii DEC Kim Fendt, WH6HIM] has put together a volunteer shelter-response team,” Schneider said. “They all realize that this may involve multiple shifts for a considerable time.”

Hawaii County Puna Makai District Councilor Greggor Ilagan reported October 28 that the flow was about 300 yards from Pahoa Village Road and advancing at a rate of up to 17 yards per hour. Smoke conditions were said to be moderate, he said, and moderate trade winds from the northeast were pushing the smoke in a south-southwest direction. Residents downwind with smoke sensitivity or respiratory problems were being advised to “take necessary precautions” and to remain indoors.”

According to Schneider, conventional telecommunication systems are “solid” for now, and there is no critical need for an ARES activation. “Power to the area is still holding,” he reported. “The electric company put insulation around some poles to keep them from burning, and, so far, that has worked. We did have a brief power outage yesterday and the emergency net came up right away. From what we could tell it was mostly on the east side of the island.

Schneider said schools in the most-threatened community of Pahoa have been closed, and a shelter location for evacuees was still under consideration, likely between Pahoa and Keaau. The lava flow has affected Election Day plans for some 2000 voters. Those who normally vote at the Pahoa Community Center now will cast their ballots at the Hawaiian Paradise Community Center.

“FEMA is offering a course on how to handle the psychological effects of this thing,” Schneider added. “[A] lot of people are having trouble dealing with it.”

Among the numerous events rescheduled as a result of the lava emergency, the November 8 Big Island Amateur Radio Club meeting has been postponed to November 22, and a swap meet in Waimea has been rescheduled to November 15.

Hawaii Civil Defense authorities deployed a remote emergency operations center in the affected region last month. Schneider predicted in September that if the lava flow continues to the ocean, cellular telephones would be the only service that would not be affected. “Power and conventional telephone service [would] be out,” he said then.

Fresh off a brief activation for Hurricane Ana, Kim Fendt’s husband Sean, KH6SF, was presented with a certificate by Schneider for his work at Pahala during Hurricane Ana. 




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