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Tips to stay safe and avoid injury during natural disasters in Hawaii

Tips to stay safe and avoid injury during natural disasters in Hawaii

June 2, 2015

Each year, thousands of tourists visit the Hawaiian Islands to enjoy the beautiful, tropical setting and laid-back friendly spirit that are special to the islands. What many tourists do not realize is that along with Hawaii’s natural beauty and stunning landscapes come some real risks. In addition to the risks tourists face while surfing, kayaking, boating, snorkeling, hiking, or taking a helicopter tour, Hawaii is also prone to certain natural disasters.

Injuries to tourists, particularly in the face of a dangerous event in Hawaii, can be devastating. If you are planning to go on vacation or take a trip to Hawaii, these tips can help you stay safe and avoid injury during each of the following types of natural disasters in Hawaii:


According to Accuweather, an average of seven tropical hurricanes and storm systems per decade have struck the Hawaiian Islands since 1950. Many tropical storms and cyclones lose strength before causing significant damage. However, Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 hurricane, hit the islands in September 1992. It caused more than $1.8 million dollars in damages and caused six deaths.Hurricane season in Hawaii runs from June through December. This means visitors and guests who travel to Hawaii during these months could find themselves facing a danger for which they may not be properly prepared.

If you find yourself in Hawaii in the face of a tropical hurricane, recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Go inside and stay away from windows or glass doors.
  • Turn on your radio or TV so you can receive the most up-to-date information.
  • Close interior doors.
  • Lock and brace external doors in the face of high winds.
  • Fill the bathtub and any other containers with water.
  • Do not go outside or open windows and doors until authorities tell you it is okay to do so, even if a lull in the storm gives you a false sense of security.
  • Stay out of elevators in any type of storm.
  • Stay out of the water and away from beaches or shoreline, as the surf can get extremely rough.


Hawaii is one of the U.S. states most at risk of a tsunami following an underwater earthquake, landslide, or eruption of a volcano. When a tsunami hits, it comes in waves. The first wave generally has the least power, with subsequent waves increasing in strength. The speed of a tsunami can reach up to 500 miles an hour. It is a tsunami’s speed, the succession of waves, and power of the water that can cause extensive destruction, as well as loss of life.Traces of a massive tsunami that hit Hawaii more than 500 years ago were recently discovered on the island of Kauai. The American Geophysical Union reports that this particular tsunami was estimated to be about three times as large as the most destructive tsunami recorded in recent Hawaiian history (1946). While tsunamis are rare, this discovery has also led scientists to believe a similar disaster could happen once again in Hawaii.

If you are planning to go to Hawaii, you should:

  • Get educated on the local tsunami warning system.
  • Familiarize yourself with tsunami warning signs: the rapid rise and fall of coastal waters or shaking and rumbling from an offshore quake.
  • Stay alert for tsunami warnings, particularly if you are in a hotel, condo, or other accommodation along the coast or beachside.
  • Have an evacuation plan in place so you and those you love can get to higher ground.
  • Stay away from the coast or water’s edge if there has been a tidal wave warning and siren alert.
  • Do not return to low-lying areas or your hotel until local authorities have deemed it safe.


Each of the Hawaiian Islands may have originally been formed by a volcano. Fortunately, not all of the volcanoes in Hawaii are active. This does not mean visitors and residents are safe from risk. According to volcano researchers, five of the volcanoes in Hawaii are active at this time: Lo’ihi, Hualalai, Haleakala, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea.Kilauea has erupted 62 times in a 245 year period of time and during October 2014, lava from the continuously erupting Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island once again began to flow. At that time, the lava flowed towards one of the island’s largest towns, threatening residents and forcing evacuations.

Volcano eruptions and flowing lava are not a common occurrence in most parts of the world. It is important that tourists and visitors are aware of what to do should there be a volcano eruption, such as:

  • Heed evacuation orders from local authorities.
  • As you evacuate, be careful to avoid flying debris, lava flow, acidic gas, and ash particles.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a wet towel or cloth to avoid ash inhalation.
  • Seek higher ground at once.
  • Take caution before crossing any bridges or streams. Mudflow is not uncommon following a volcano eruption. As rapidly flowing mud can move at tremendous rates of speed, you will want to avoid river valleys, low-lying ground, and other areas where water, mud, or lava could flow.


A danger that tourists must be aware of during or immediately following bad weather or any type of natural disaster, is multi-vehicle accidents. Natural disasters often lead to panic. If too many people attempt to flee all at one time, roads and highways become heavily congested and multi-vehicle accidents are very possible under these circumstances.

The last thing you want, if evacuating an area due to a tropical hurricane, tsunami, or volcanic eruption, is to become stranded in a traffic pileup or sustain injury during such a potentially dangerous natural event. You also do not want your passengers to be put in harm’s way from high winds, flying debris, and other dangers brought about by these natural events.

If it is safe to do so, take shelter in place. If it is advised that you seek higher ground or move further inland, heed warnings from local authorities, but exercise caution when attempting to navigate around the island in these conditions.


Tourist injury cases can be extremely complex. If you are injured as the result of some type of accident caused by the fault of others while vacationing in Hawaii, seek counsel from an attorney with experience representing injured tourists. Doing so will provide you with a strong advocate who is familiar with Hawaii state laws and who understands how to negotiate with insurance adjusters. It is vital that you have legal help to pursue fair financial damages.


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