Herman Andaya, chief of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, is coming under increasing scrutiny for his handling of the response to the Maui wildfires last week.
According to CBS News, Andaya has no background in disaster response.
“It’s his department that is responsible for setting off warning sirens, which rang silent during the fires,” CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell posted to X.
CBS News has learned Maui’s emergency operations chief had no background in disaster response. It’s his department that is responsible for setting off warning sirens, which rang silent during the fires. #maui #wildfires #Lahaina #MauiFire
— Norah O'Donnell 🇺🇸 (@NorahODonnell) August 16, 2023
“Local news site Maui Now reported in 2017 that he was hired over 40 other qualified applicants,” according to the network.
Asked during a press conference on Wednesday if he regretted not activating sirens meant to warn Maui residents of natural disasters, Andaya responded, “I do not.”
He argued that the sirens are generally used to warn the public of tsunamis or approaching storms and would “not have saved those people.”
“The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the sirens are sounded,” he said, according to CBS News. “Had we sounded the sirens that night, we were afraid that people would have gone [mountainside], and if that was the case, they would have gone into the fire.”
“So that is the reason why; it is our protocol to use WEA [Wireless Emergency Alerts] and EAS [the Emergency Alert System],” he said, referring to text alerts sent to cell phones and alerts sent via television and radio.
WATCH: Maui Emergency Chief Defends Not Activating Sirens to Warn of FiresCounty of Maui / Facebook
However, due to widespread power and phone service outages, many on the island could not receive those alerts.
And according to Hawaii’s own official government website, the “all-hazard siren system” can be used for a “variety of both natural and human-caused events,” including “wildfires.”
He also revealed during the press conference that he was not even on the island on the day the fires began. He was in Oahu, attending a three-day Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster preparedness seminar, Hawaii News Now reported.
Still, Andaya defended his response, arguing that the accusation that he is not qualified, “I think, is incorrect.”
According to Andaya’s Linkedin profile, prior to taking his current position in 2017, he was the Maui County mayor’s chief of staff beginning in 2011. He claimed that during that time he often reported to emergency operations officials and went through numerous trainings.
Prior to that, he was a special assistant to the chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College beginning in 2007. Before that, he worked in the state Department of Housing and Human Concerns for about five years.
As of Thursday, 111 people have been confirmed dead, with about 1,000 still unaccounted for.
WATCH: K9 Units Assist in Search for Survivors in Lahaina Following WildfiresDVIDS via Storyful