Rebounding from the destruction of a tsunami that struck three years ago, American Samoa has now earned NOAA's official TsunamiReady designation, making this U.S. Pacific island territory more prepared to act in the event of a future tsunami.
“The people of American Samoa know first-hand the devastating impacts of tsunamis,” said Jeff LaDouce, director of the National Weather Service, Pacific Region. “Tsunamis are a real threat to American Samoa since seismic activity can come from the Tonga Trench located just offshore. The TsuanimiReady program gives emergency managers the tools to prepare and warn citizens the next time a tsunami strikes, ultimately saving lives.”
On Sept. 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.
LaDouce presented Gov. Togiola T. A. Tulafano with a recognition letter and TsunamiReady street signs during a special ceremony at Utulei Beach in American Samoa on Sept. 28. The designation will be in effect for three years and can be renewed. The 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.”
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.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided funding and technical assistance to support American Samoa's effort to become TsunamiReady. NOAA also awarded federal grant money in support of this initiative.
“The people of American Samoa have shown incredible resilience in the face of the devastating 2009 Tsunami,” said Nancy Ward, administrator of FEMA Region IX. “Their dedication and commitment to participate in this program will undoubtedly help save lives in the future, and is an accomplishment the entire Territory can be proud of.”
The TsunamiReady program is part of the National Weather Service's working partnership with the International Association of Emergency Managers, the National Emergency Management Association, and the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. (NOAA)