FEMA Invests $100 Million in Post-Tsunami Disaster Relief, Emergency Preparedness Improvements for American Samoa
By Mary Simms
Pago Pago, American Samoa -- Rebounding from the destruction of a deadly tsunami that struck three years ago, American Samoa has now earned NOAA’s official TsunamiReady designation in a beach front ceremony attended by Region IX Administrator Nancy Ward and other federal agency representatives who worked jointly with American Samoa to achieve this distinction.
"This subduction zone will continue to produce earthquakes and potentially damaging tsunamis," said Regional Administrator Nancy Ward. "American Samoa Government officials have truly made preparedness one of their most important priorities. Their training and outreach programs have achieved remarkable results that will help save future lives."
On September 29, 2009, 34 people were killed and several villages destroyed from a tsunami that struck just 17 minutes after an 8.0 magnitude earthquake occurred approximately 120 miles south of Pago Pago. Since then, the local NOAA National Weather Service office and emergency managers developed a formal tsunami hazard plan and meet other criteria to become TsunamiReady.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded nearly $100 Million dollars in Post-Tsunami improvements to American Samoa for lifesaving emergency management systems that include 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. 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.
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.
After meeting all federal requirements, the islands of Tutuila, Aunuu, Ofu, Olosega and Tau and all of the National Park of American Samoa were officially recognized as TsunamiReady in a recent ceremony with senior American Samoan Government, NOAA, FEMA and U.S. Army officials.
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.
The whole community of American Samoa has come together during the past three years to make the citizens of the islands safer and better prepared to meet a wide variety of threats.
Post-Tsunami FEMA funded projects include: the purchase of a generator and two ambulances for LBJ hospital and establishing an Emergency 9-1-1 Call Center. In addition, funds were used to purchase and install an early warning siren system complete with 48 sirens throughout American Samoa. Funds were also used to improve airport security and to purchase equipment for American Samoa Department of Homeland Security’s Emergency Operation Center. Communications equipment and Official vehicles for the American Samoa Department of Homeland Security were also acquired. The Land-Mobile-Radio project contract has been awarded and is the next phase to be implemented to improve communication capability on the island.