DHS meeting called for territory’s schools about threat of N. Korea missile launch
Administrators and officials from public and private schools attended a meeting Wednesday morning at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium, called by the Department of Homeland Security, to address the recent threats of a missile launch by North Korea, as well as the issue of drugs on campus.
Among those present at the meeting were: Lt. Gov Lemanu Peleti Mauga, Secretary of Samoan Affairs Mauga Tasi Asuega, Eastern District Governor Alo Dr. Paul Stevenson, Director of the AS Dept. of Homeland Security Samana Ve'ave'a, Director of Education Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga, DOE deputy directors Philo Jennings and Faaui Vaitautolu, heads of DOE elementary and secondary divisions, and principals of local private schools.
THREAT OF NORTH KOREA MISSILE LAUNCH IN THE PACIFIC
Recent threats by North Korea regarding a missile launch in the Pacific, school administrators and educators were instructed to keep their eyes and ears open.
According to information revealed during the meeting, the tested missile can travel up to a distance of 5,000 miles, while an untested one is estimated to reach a traveling distance of up to 8,000 miles.
American Samoa is about 5,400 miles from North Korea.
Presenters at the meeting explained that the Department of Defense (DOD) has numerous plans in place on what to do once the missile is launched. As soon as the DOD can pinpoint where the missile is heading - about a 5-minute window - local residents will have less than 30 minutes to react.
"Be alert," was the main message Wednesday. Once the siren is heard, the blinking lights are spotted, and the announcements are made, everyone is ordered to "Get in, Stay in, and Stay tuned."
When one of the participants asked about the availability of gas masks, Lemanu reflected on his military days and said having to use gas masks in a mock exercise and using them during a real life situation is totally different.
How we act when we practice or train for a disaster, is not necessarily how we are going to act when tragedy strikes, the Lt. Gov said, adding that no matter how ready we think we are, things change during the course of an emergency and that's when our reactions are most critical.
When and if a missile is launched and it is determined to be heading to American Samoa or anyplace nearby, sirens will go off, and messages will be disbursed by local emergency responders. Communication is key.
Following a missile attack, nuclear debris is scattered in the air after an explosion and it can take up to two weeks for an 'all clear' message to be issued.
That is why if a missile is determined to be heading to our shores, all schools will be in 'lock down' for a period of up to 14 days — generally, the number of days is takes for the air to clear up.
This means each school much have a plan in place of where the children will be evacuated to, and how they will be accommodated during this period of time.
During the 'lock down' phase, the EOC team will find a way to get food and water to everyone.
Those who are on the road during the alert are urged to seek shelter at the closest place they can find.
DRUGS ON CAMPUS
With the recent increase in the number of drugs being discovered in the territory, government and community leaders are banding together to help combat the problem, especially on the campuses of local schools.
Educators who attended the meeting were instructed to be alert and on the lookout for suspicious vehicles and persons coming in and out of school premises. DOE Deputy Director Faaui Vaitautolu encouraged educators to not be afraid to report anything they think is not right.
She said there are people who know what's going on, as far as drugs on campus, but no action is being taken to address it. She told administrators not to be scared, and if they are hesitant in taking action, call the police and have them handle it.