13 locals ready to train others for disaster preparedness


In a ground-breaking move to involve people in disaster relief who have actually experienced disaster, 13 American Samoa residents have been certified trainers for Community/Village Coastal Resilience (CCR) and Tsunami Awareness.

The ability to build local capacity that has emerged from the American Samoa model builds on traditional strengths of family, village and culture in American Samoa versus flying in trainers from overseas, and this has caught regional and national attention.

The result is a Service Agreement contract between the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) and the University of Hawaii National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC).

Gov. Togiola, Tapaau Dr. Dan Aga representing ASCC, and Professor Dolores Foley of the UH NDPTC officially signed the contract in the Governor’s conference room last week.

Togiola summed up the importance of the initiative saying, “All too often, training and development are based on models and methods that are for environments and cultures elsewhere but not effective when applied to American Samoa. When they are not village driven, they are seldom effective and do not last. Over the century, methods, etc. come and go. The villages are still here.”

“This University of Hawaii National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) and American Samoa Community College Agreement is a critical phase for sustaining disaster preparedness through bottom up strategies that strengthens self-reliance at the village/community levels and become enduring when incorporated into time tested traditional structures that have survived millenniums,” the governor said.

The NOAA Leone village resiliency study developed concurrently with NDPTC training has provided extensive detailed information on village response to a natural disaster and reaffirmed the value of traditional support structures when modern transportation, power and water infrastructure breaks down, sometime for days before access is possible.

The importance of continuous consultation with the faalupega, aumaga and aualuma in reconciling cultural dilemmas by developing solutions that incorporate the strengths of both traditional wisdom and modern science is of particular importance and emphasized. The general tendency to transfer training and intervention models developed universally for a continental nation without local input was also highlighted, as such methods have proven ineffective when applied in Pacific Islands.

The NDPTC is a training branch of FEMA that certifies trainers for FEMA disaster preparedness programs. Certified trainers can be called up to conduct trainings they are certified in, throughout the US Territories (Pacific & Caribbean) and US Coastal areas where FEMA is actively engaged. They are paid for expenses and time based on FEMA standard operating policies.

Although the American Samoa trainers can be sent overseas, initial focus will be on American Samoa with the goal of conducting NDPTC training that reaches 100% of the coastal villages of Tutuila, Manu’a and Aunu’u by 2013.

Through the initial post tsunami impact study conducted by Moeituasivi Filipo Ilaoa (Sgt Maj.USMC Ret.) of the governors staff and information generated from the NOAA Leone village resiliency project, initial tsunami training of the Pago Pago aumaga and meetings with village faalupega were set in motion.

From this, strategic objectives were developed and designed incorporating that feedback into the training and certification process. An important action as a result was translation of FEMA disaster preparedness training manuals by the ASCC Samoan Studies Institute. This first translation of the material into an Oceania language is anticipated to expand into other languages for training use in the near future.


This entire initiative started in the spring of 2010, when a MOU between ASG and the University of Hawaii was brought to the attention of Togiola by the Government Authorized Representative, Evelyn V. Langford. It included technical assistance for business economic recovery, recovery of past disaster management data for financial reporting and close out using MBA’s and disaster preparedness training among others.

At his insistence, the Governor wanted the scope of disaster preparedness to include degree credit opportunities offered at the UH in disaster management and related fields. Additionally, to include a certification training program for our people that builds local capacity while reducing external dependency when disaster strikes and lastly, integrating the strengths of our culture as a foundation into the process.

The signing of the Service Agreement contract is testimony to the achievement of these goals through the collaborative actions of the University of Hawaii National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Pacific Business Centre Program; The American Samoa Community College and the Office of the Governor.


Dr. Karl Kim , Executive Director UH NDPTC

Dr. Seth Galea’i President ASCC

Tuala Mike Sala and staff of Homeland Security


Akapo Akapo, NOAA

Carol Baqui, NOAA

Hans Malala, NOAA

Apulu Ropeti Areta ASCC

Larry Hirata, ASCC (retired)

Ginger Lei Porter, UH (PhD Student)

Filipo Ilaoa, Governor’s Staff Hawaii

Fuapopo Avegalio, EMS

Joseph Faaita, EMS

William Beaver Avegalio, EMS

Deidra Saelua, ASG

Laloifi Saelua. ASG

Adrian Lualemana, Army Reserve

(Source: UH-NDPT media release)


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