Super Typhoon Soudelor made land fall on the island of Saipan, CNMI this past weekend, Aug 2 and 3, 2015. There is widespread debris, downed trees and island wide power outages. There were approximately 350 people displaced into shelters. Articles about the storm and its effect on the island are coming in from Huffington Post, Guam Pacific Daily News, New Zealand Herald and Stuff.co.nz. Surprisingly, Typhoon Soudelor got very little coverage in the Hawaii media.
News directly from Saipan is very limited as well. Most tweets with #typhoonsoudelor seem to be from friends and relatives outside of Saipan sending their prayers and well wishes:
This might be due to the fragile state of the island's Internet service. While I was there teaching a course on Social Media for Natural Disaster Response and Recovery, back in June 2015, Internet access was spotty at best in the classrooms where we conducted the training.
Eventually the Commonwealth Utility Corporation will restore power and the Internet brought back online for Saipan. In the meantime, if you have any information or support services for the people of Saipan feel free to share it on this Facebook group called Saipan, CNMI Recovery Assistance. We found this tool was very useful when Hurricane Iselle impacted Hawaii Island. It is the least we can do to leverage the technology and hopefully help to quicken the recovery process.
The City and County of Honolulu held a press conference to roll out the newly revised tsunami inundation maps based on models of an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands generating a massive tsunami directed towards Hawaii. The new maps depict a zone further inland where a large wave generated by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake could penetrate. This new zone is referred to as the Extreme Tsunami Evacuation Zone. According to Gerard Fryer, the senior geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, a tsunami of this magnitude could come from any direction.
With a population on Oahu of 90,000 in the regular evacuation zone and an additional 330,000 individuals in the 'extreme' evacuation zone, the City could be looking to accommodate a total of 420,000 people in a worst case scenario. The new maps were developed by the University of Hawaii and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and funded by a grant from Sea Grant College. Data for the neighbor islands were also developed through this study but it was unclear when the neighbor islands were planning to roll out their maps.
In addition to introducing the new maps, the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) also announced their new mobile app for disaster preparedness. The app called ReadyHawaii is available for iOS and Android and provides maps, threats, local information and hazard history. Here, Peter Hirai, Deputy Director of DEM demonstrates the functions of the app. ReadyHawaii cost an estimated $40,000 and was funded by a grant from Sea Grant/NOAA.
On its annual 3 month voyage around the world, the Peace Boat docks in Honolulu Harbor. Peace Boat is a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization whose mission is:
To promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment.
This year, I along with a small group of about 25 individuals was invited to a mini conference on community resilience and disaster risk reduction. Invited guests ranged from community organizers from Manoa and Hawaii Kai, NDPTC, NOAA, Amnesty International Honolulu, Pacific Forum CSIS, VOAD, R3ady Asia-Pacific and a few others.
The goal of the mini conference was to determine what attendees thought were the primary challenges and opportunities for their community's disaster risk reduction. Given the short timeframe people only had time to identify a few of their challenges. This is a job being worked on by various levels of governments and NGOs and we were not going to solve any problems in an afternoon. Realizing that, it became a chance to network with others in similar fields.
The last presentation of the day and probably why we were assembled was a request by Robin Lewis, Peace Boat's International Disaster Relief Coordinator, to consider the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction Resilient Cities Campaign. It contains a 10-point checklist for making cities more resilient. I've learned in the past that when governmental agencies as international as the UN get involved our local County and State government are more incline to get involved before we (citizens) do. Here's to see what happens next.
The City & County of Honolulu, Dept of Emergency Management (DEM) has been offering Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training for more than a decade but this is the first time they brought everyone together to discuss community organizing. Previously if you completed CERT training you would not be able to find out who in your neighborhood also completed training due to privacy concerns. This policy made it difficult for anyone to contact other CERT members thereby slowing down efforts to organize community groups.
Several communities like Manoa, Ewa Beach and Waimanalo, through shear force of will and motivation created teams of CERT graduates that meet regularly to discuss disaster preparedness. Areas like Manoa and Ewa Beach have even conducted preparedness fairs to grow community awareness.
The format for today's Meet and Greet was to provide a quick overview of the CERT program and then give people a chance to meet others in their area. If you were from an area with an established group, then you were welcomed into the group. If you were from an area without a group, like Pearl City, Aiea or Kalihi then you are starting from scratch. Taking it to the next level requires a lot of time and sustained commitment.
To DEM's credit, they will support the efforts of new CERT communities by attending meetings to aid organizers. Another new offering by DEM is to provide refresher CERT classes, focussing on perishable skills. A third area they are considering is exercising the CERT teams through community exercises or incorporating CERT in statewide Makani Pahili exercises.
These are some of the ideas being considered and it appears DEM is making a concerted effort to further nurture CERT community building. They will even provide custom training based on your needs and schedule. In my opinion, whether you are part of an organized community or an individual interested in being disaster prepared, you can not go wrong with going through the CERT program. Oh, and I failed to mention, it is all free.
Since September is National Preparedness Month, there seems to be an assortment of training opportunities to build your personal preparedness and community resilience. Over the course of last weekend there were three classes offered by different organizations.
The first was from the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, for which I teach an occasional social media class. The class I took is a newly certified FEMA class called Natural Disaster Awareness for Community Leaders. The key is to plan ahead of time, assess the available resources in your community and the different vulnerability factors that exist within those communities. It's important to organize before the event of an emergency.
The second class was Skywarn offered by the local NOAA office. This is an introductory class for anyone interested in being a weather spotter for the National Weather Service. The program won't qualify you to be a meteorologist but it will give you the basics in identifying thunderstorms and the associated cloud formations. By taking the class you get a Skywarn number and the fundamentals of reporting local weather phenomenon like hail, flooding and storm conditions.
The third workshop is an essential for anyone who considers their pet a part of their family. The Red Cross offers this pet first aid class that gives you the basics to help your pet in distress. It is described as pet CPR. The lessons taught in this class could help you resuscitate your pet and give you the needed time to get to the vet. Good information to know in the event of an emergency and your pet will love you for it.