News: Disaster preparedness critical, involves everyone
Story by 1st Lt. Jean-Scott Dodd
OKINAWA, Japan - The military offers individuals the opportunity to live in a variety of locations around the world, each with unique, natural regional dangers.
In Alaska, personnel and family members must prepare for cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. In the Midwest region of the U.S., it is important to take into account the potential for tornadoes. For those assigned to Okinawa, typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis are potential threats, which can be mitigated with the right disaster preparedness information and planning.
“The critical thing for people to understand, regardless of what kind of a natural disaster we’re talking about or whether they are new to Okinawa or heading to their next duty station, is that they need to have a discussion about what to do and where to go should an event occur,” said Mr. Mike M. Lacey, the regional installation emergency manager for Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “Everyone should develop an evacuation plan and have rally points set for work or school days and recreational activities in addition to knowing where on-base safe havens and shelters are located.”
It is a personal responsibility for individuals not only to have a plan in place, but also to know where to get crucial information from during a disaster and to ask the right questions now, before it is too late, according to Lacey.
Another important precaution everyone should take is to stock up on critical supplies and maintain a disaster preparedness kit, according to Carl D. Hinson, the installation emergency management analyst for MCIPAC.
When preparing for a natural disaster on Okinawa, it is important for individuals to note that typhoon season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, is not the only time to prepare and maintain a deliberate plan. Earthquakes and tsunamis are naturally occurring disasters, often with little or no warning, which can cause immediate devastation and are not seasonal but year-round threats.
“Earthquakes can cause damage to buildings and other structures on the ground as a result of the ground shaking created and can even result in fires through the damage of electrical power or gas lines,” said Hinson. “There is also the threat of a tsunami in the aftermath of an earthquake.”
Tsunamis, which are long-wavelength, long-period sea waves produced by the sudden movement of large volumes of water, can overrun coastal areas in a matter of minutes, traveling thousands of kilometers across the ocean and wreaking destruction on shores hours after the earthquake that generated them, according to Hinson.
“Since earthquakes and tsunamis can occur at anytime, it is essential that everyone makes it a priority to think critically about how ready they would be today if a disaster struck Okinawa,” said Lacey. “Would they know who to call or where to go? Would they have the necessary supplies on hand? These are the questions to ask now.”
MCIPAC is in the process of developing an audible, installation-wide warning system, which will provide notification that a tsunami warning has been generated, ensuring personnel and their families can put their plans into action when they hear that sound, according to Lacey.
MCIPAC plans to test the system soon and will publicize information regarding this test once it is available. The Okinawa Marine will have more information on the system and testing in the near future.
For more information on disaster preparedness, contact your camp’s emergency management representative.