News: Community members rehearse evacuation routes
Story by Lance Cpl. Anne Henry
OKINAWA, Japan - Approximately 150 members of the local communities around Camps Kinser and Foster took part in disaster relief drills Sept. 1 and Sept. 4 at the camps in conjunction with Marine Corps Installations Pacific Marines.
The goal of the drills was to familiarize community members with planned evacuation routes through the camps. During a natural disaster such as a tsunami or typhoon, the route would be used to provide the most direct evacuation possible for citizens seeking refuge.
“Today, we are conducting a drill to practice a set route in the event that a natural disaster does occur,” said Col. Edmund J. Bowen, the commanding officer of Camp Kinser and Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “We must work together and show our support to the surrounding community.”
Participants started at locations off base in natural-disaster hazard zones before making their way to gate 5, known as the commissary gate, at Camp Foster and gate 4 at Camp Kinser, known as the northern gate, upon the sound of the area alarms. Crossing on to the camps, the participants were able to move directly out of the danger areas to higher elevation.
The event provided an opportunity for the coordinators to get an estimate of how long it would take for community members to get to safety.
“These are the shortest routes to safety,” said Tetsuji Matsumoto, the Urasoe City mayor. “It is critical we practice these drills so should something happen, all movements will be smooth and more lives will be saved.”
Natural disasters and tropical storms are common in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Masaki Okuhama, an event participant. It is critical that individuals living in the region are prepared for the worst and educated on how to respond if a disaster does strike.
“I now feel much more prepared for a natural disaster,” said Okuhama. “Because our town is crowded, it would be hard for us to get to safety. This has been an excellent learning experience for me as well as the other people (involved).”
It is necessary for the citizens to continue to practice the drill and ensure maximum participation and education among the community, according to Haruhisa Takeuchi, the acting ambassador in charge of Okinawa Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
“This has been a great start to (preparing) for a natural disaster,” said Takeuchi. “If disaster does strike, we must all help each other reach safety.”
Due to the inherent importance of proper preparation for saving lives and minimizing the effects of a natural disaster, the drill is scheduled to be conducted biannually.
“Many hours have been spent planning this out,” said Bowen. “But the route we have set has the potential to save many lives.”