An LGU yardstick for 24-hr preparedness for calamity mgmt
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - May 2, 2019 - 12:00am

(Part II of “How to make an earthquake preparedness plan”)

The Philippines is in the middle of Asia Pacific countries. It is an archipelago floating between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. The ocean currents, together with those of South China Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea inundate its long coastal line and inland rivers, making it vulnerable to natural calamities like tsunamis and flash floods. Furthermore, the intense orbiting of the earth includes the crashing of the tectonic plates in the bottom of the ocean, triggering earthquakes on land and gives rise to volcanic explosions.

My daughter who used to live in the United States’ earthquake zone of Los Angeles, California, sent me a comprehensive information and guidelines on how Americans are to be well-prepared for hazards like tropical cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes, flood surges, etc. It has been put together by the expertise of various national and international agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for 24-hour updates, Tsunami Warning Centers (TWC), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) personnel and equipment.

The best source of information in tsunami situation

As part of an international cooperative effort to save lives and protect property, NOAA and the National Weather Service (NWS) operate two tsunami warning centers: the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) which expanded its scope to the US Atlantic Coast and the Atlantic Coast of Canada in Palmer, Alaska, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Ewa Beach Hawaii.

Some areas, such as Hawaii, have Civil Defense sirens. When the siren is sounded, the public is to turn on their radios or televisions to any station and listen for emergency information and instructions. Maps of tsunami-inundation areas and evacuation routes are found in the front of local telephone books in the Disaster Preparedness Info section.

Tsunami warnings are broadcast on local radio and television stations and on NOAA Weather Radio, which is the prime alerting and critical information delivery systems of the NWS. It broadcasts warnings, watches, forecasts, and other hazard information 24 hours a day on more than 650 stations in the 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the US Pacific territories.

The tsunami watch guide

A tsunami is a series of waves, often the initial waves is not the largest. The largest wave may occur several hours after the initial activity starts at a coastal location. The Tacloban, Samar, Aklan and Palawan storm surges are tsunami-like ocean wave surges. Tsunamis are large ocean waves generated by major earthquakes beneath the ocean floor or major landslides into the ocean. Tsunamis caused by nearby earthquakes may reach the coast within minutes. They may rise to several feet or, in rare cases, tens of feet, striking the coast with devastating force.

The tsunami danger period can continue for many hours after a major earthquake. The International Tsunami Warning System monitors ocean waves after any Pacific earthquake with a magnitude greater than 6.5. If waves are detected, warnings are issued to local authorities who can order the evacuation of low-lying areas if necessary.

Why prepare for tsunamis?

Twenty-four tsunamis have caused damage in the United States and its territories in the past 200 years. Since 1946, six tsunamis have killed more than 350 people and caused significant property damage in Hawaii, Alaska, and along the West Coast. Asians have become alerted to tsunamis when they hit the coasts of Phuket, Thailand, Aceh, Indonesia and Japan in recent years.

When a tsunami comes ashore, it can cause great loss of life and property damage because it can travel upstream in coastal estuaries and rivers. Thus, its damaging waves can extend farther inland than the immediate coast. It can occur during any season of the year and at any time of the day, as did “Yolanda” when it attained Category 5 “super typhoon” accompanied by strong storm surges, on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (TWC), a joint US Navy – US Air Force task force in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

So it is advised that if a person is in a coastal community and feel the shaking of a strong earthquake, he may have only minutes until a tsunami arrives. The strong shaking must be a warning, and after protecting himself from falling objects, he must quickly move away from the water and to higher ground. Once away from the water, he must listen to a local radio or television station or NOAA Weather Radio for information from the Tsunami Warning Centers about further action he should take. Depending on the location of the earthquake, he may have a number of hours in which to take appropriate action.

A weather radio?

The NWS encourages people to buy a weather radio equipped with the Specific Area Message Encoder (SAME) feature. This feature automatically alerts every resident when important information is issued about tsunamis or weather-related hazards for their area. Information on NOAA Weather Radio is available from the local NWS office or online. The radio is to be carried when going to the beach and with a supply of fresh batteries.

A Tsunami Warning means a dangerous tsunami may have been generated and could be close to a community area. Warnings are issued when an earthquake is detected that meets the location and magnitude criteria for the generation of a tsunami. It includes predicted arrival times at selected coastal communities within the geographic area defined by the maximum distance the tsunami could travel in a few hours.

A Tsunami Watch means a dangerous tsunami has not yet been verified but could exist, and may be as little as an hour away. A watch issued along with a warning predicts additional arrival times for a geographic area defined by the distance the tsunami could travel in more than a few hours. NTWC and the PTWC issue watches and warnings to the media and to local, state, national and international officials. NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts tsunami information directly to the public. Local officials are responsible for formulating, disseminating information about, and executing evacuation plans in case of a tsunami warning.

CALAMITY MANAGEMENT TSUNAMI
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