By Jan TenBruggencate

Hurricane Lane. Image courtesy of NOAA

Many of us who lived through Hurricanes ‘Iwa and ‘Iniki remember that the food was real good for the first day or two — until we finished cleaning out the lobster and steak from freezers that had lost power.

Before long, we were digging back into closets for containers of foods we were never realistically going to eat. Until the military showed up with gut-filling Meals Ready To Eat, better known as MREs.

Would we be better prepared today? A few clearly have taken heed of emergency management experts’ call to be prepared with two weeks of food, water and medications. But not nearly enough.

“Only 14 percent of households have enough food and water for 14 days,” said Lauren Guest, public health preparedness planner for the state Department of Health.

Two-thirds of households with medical needs had a 14-day supply of prescription medicines, but that means a third didn’t.

Guest oversaw an islandwide community preparedness survey in July 2018, under a protocol established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kaua‘i is the only island that has undergone the survey

The survey is called CASPER, for Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response. Guest unveiled the final survey results in September at Science @ Your Library, a joint program of Lihu‘e Public Library and the Hawai‘i Alliance for Science. The preliminary results are available on the Kaua‘i District Health Office’s website She was also scheduled to discuss it at the Lihu‘e Business Association public meeting series.

The CASPER survey had volunteers talk with more than 200 families in communities around the island, selected using strict protocols developed by the federal government and using U.S. Census data. The survey sought to look at general preparedness, responses to the April flooding event, mosquito activity and how people get their emergency information.

It found that 80 percent of households said they had some kind of emergency kit (although most clearly not sufficient for two weeks) and 86 percent had first aid kits. More than two-thirds had a packet with copies of important documents. But less than half had established a designated meeting area in case the family could not gather at home.

Most families — 55 percent — said they had pets, and most said that if they needed to evacuate, they would bring their pets along. That said, most did not have the necessary supplies (food, crate, medications, etc.) for their pets — so they’d be evacuating without the ability to care for their animals.

Clearly there is a lot to be done, and in a year with multiple hurricane and flooding threats, it’s also clear that there’s sufficient risk to justify being ready. There is a lot of information at the Kauaæi Emergency Management Agency website,

Besides developing proper plans and preparing for how to respond to emergencies, Guest suggested people should consider signing up for the County of Kaua‘i emergency alert system. You can sign up online at the county website, call the KEMA at (808) 241-1800, or email

  • Jan TenBruggencate is a Kaua‘i based writer and communications consultant.

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