Ceremony to acknowledge ASG \TsunamiReady\ is today
Three years after the worst disaster in the territory’s history and with around $100 million in federal assistance, American Samoa is now designated “TsunamiReady”, with the official ceremony set for this morning at Utulei Beach.
This designation is made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service (NWS). NOAA says TsunamiReady makes American Samoa more prepared to act in the event of a future tsunami. TsunamiReady designation covers the islands of Tutuila, Aunuu, Ofu, Olosega and Tau and all of the National Park of American Samoa.
NWS Pacific Region director Jeff LaDouce said the people of American Samoa know first-hand the devastating impact of tsunamis.
“Tsunamis are a real threat to American Samoa since seismic activity can come from the Tonga Trench located just offshore,” said LaDouce in a NOAA news release yesterday. “The TsunamiReady program gives emergency managers the tools to prepare and warn citizens the next time a tsunami strikes, ultimately saving lives."
LaDouce will present Gov. Togiola T. A. Tulafono with a recognition letter and TsunamiReady street signs during today’s ceremony. U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Regional Administrator Nancy Ward arrived last night with other federal officials to attend the ceremony.
LaDouce said the designation will be in effect for three years and can be renewed. Additionally, signs will be positioned in places across the island for public awareness.
“This begins a state of tsunami readiness on American Samoa that will continue to develop, expand and be exercised on a continuing basis,” said LaDouce. “We hope the efforts here encourage all island countries in the South Pacific to make similar efforts to prepare for tsunamis.”
Since the 2009 tsunami, which was spawned by an 8.0 earthquake, killing 34 residents including a handful of children, FEMA over the last three years has awarded nearly $100 million in post-tsunami improvements to American Samoa for lifesaving emergency management systems, said FEMA in a news release yesterday morning.
This includes an early warning siren system, 9-1-1 emergency call center and the completion of a formal tsunami hazard plan that proved instrumental in helping the island achieve the coveted status of TsunamiReady, said FEMA officials.
To be recognized as TsunamiReady, a community must establish a 24 hour warning point and emergency operations center, develop multiple ways to receive tsunami warnings and alert the public, develop a formal tsunami hazard plan, conduct emergency exercises and promote public readiness through community education.
Given that American Samoa is located 120 miles away from the Tonga Trench, one of the fastest moving subduction zones in the world, tsunami readiness is paramount to the island’s safety posture.
“This subduction zone will continue to produce earthquakes and potentially damaging tsunamis,” said Ward in the FEMA news release.
According to FEMA, resources have been invested by federal, territorial, voluntary and private sectors partners since the killer wave came ashore in 2009 that have helped the territory to achieve a heightened level of preparedness.
“This is a perfect example of the resilience of the Pacific Islanders and the value of government coordination and cooperation. Everyone met this disaster head on and never stopped moving forward,” said LaDouce. “This recognition is something that the people of American Samoa and their many partners can be very proud of.”
Congressman Faleomavaega Eni yesterday acknowledged the efforts of the local Department of Homeland Security “which has truly made preparedness one of their top priorities.” He commended the local National Weather Service for their timely response at the first sign of an earthquake, which was followed by the tsunami.
“In the aftermath of the tsunami, American Samoans set their hope on emerging from our tragedy stronger and this recent achievement is a major stepping stone which proves that we are on course to reaching this goal,” said Faleomavaega in a news release.
More specific details in the FEMA news release on funding post-tsunami is attached to the online version of this story at www.samoanews.com.
Meanwhile, the Rotary Club of Pago Pago along with Hawaiian Airlines will hold a memorial service at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow to remember the victims of the tsunami. The service will be held at the Tsunami Memorial Picnic Shelter located at Lions Park.
The memorial shelter was constructed through a joint effort by the Rotary Club and Hawaiian Airlines and was dedicated in July last year. The memorial shelter includes a memorial plaque with the names of the 2009 tsunami victims, whose families and friends are invited to attend the memorial service.
The government has yet to announce if it will hold an official ceremony tomorrow.