During September, Palau engages the population to raise awareness on disaster preparedness
'A Lasting Legacy': Palau’s National Preparedness Month
September 13, 2022
This September in Palau is marked by campaigns and activities to raise awareness on disaster preparedness. It is National Preparedness Month during which the island nation is organizing roadside awareness campaigns, talk shows, a preparedness fair, and multi-hazards drills – and encouraging families, businesses, and public and private agencies to participate.
It started with a Presidential Proclamation in 2019, inspired partly by tsunami preparedness events under a Government of Japan funded programme implemented by the United Nations Development Programme. Given Palau’s exposure to natural hazards and climate change, the proclamation calls for “everyone’s responsibility in the community to be involved in preparing the nation for disasters”.
This year’s theme is ‘A Lasting Legacy’. Among the multi-hazard events, tsunami preparedness remains an important focus. On September 6th, UNDP joined the government efforts for the nationwide Tsunami siren testing and the tsunami drills conducted by the Melkeok Elementary School.
Kevin Petrini, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative for the North Pacific (Palau, RMI & FSM) reinforced the importance of these exercises: “We’ve been working with the schools to practice tsunami drills that allow the students to understand what the siren is about, what they need to do, where they need to go, how they need to take care of themselves and ultimately, to saves lives”.
Under the UNDP-Government of Japan project, hundreds of students, teachers, and school administrators in Palau have been trained in tsunami preparedness. “The project has been very successful in both public and private schools, and it’s now pouring out in the community,” said Mr. Waymine Towai, Executive Director of the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) in Palau.
On September 14th and 15th, the Ministry of Education will be conducting community awareness tsunami drills in the remote state of Kayangel, the northernmost island in the country, only accessible by boat. “The state government of Kayangel and community members have become so good at evacuation that the State Governor asked us not to announce the evacuation drill so it can be closer to a real disaster event”, mentioned Waymine Towai.
Schools are at the center of the tsunami drills exercise but calls for the entire community’s participation. Raynold Mechol, Director of Schools Operations at the Ministry of Education emphasizes that the preparedness month is “a great opportunity to incorporate some activities, raising public awareness on Tsunami in schools and beyond.”
While September is an essential month to ramp up preparedness in Palau, the country keeps on maintaining its efforts throughout until November, as it will conduct a nationwide tsunami drill to mark World Tsunami Awareness Day.
Disasters don’t come with an announced date. Palau knows it and so it builds a legacy of preparedness, awareness and resilience.
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