Weather Any Storm: Guide to Typhoon Readiness on Guam
As a newcomer or an old-time Guam resident, a refresher course in typhoon preparedness is in order.
Learning from the Past
As a newcomer or an old-time Guam resident, a refresher course in typhoon preparedness is in order. Many of us remember Typhoon Paka. Wikipedia provides the following:
Typhoon Paka was the last tropical cyclone in the 1997 Pacific Ocean hurricane and typhoon
Typhoon Paka first impacted the Marshall Islands, where it dropped heavy rainfall and left US $80 million. Later, it passed just north of Guam, where strong winds destroyed about 1,500 buildings and damaged 10,000 more; 5,000 people were left homeless, and the island experienced a complete power outage following the typhoon. Damage on the island totaled US $500 million, which warranted the retirement of its name. Paka also caused minor damage in the Northern Mariana Islands, and overall the typhoon caused no reported fatalities.
The following information is from Guam Homeland Security, Office of Civil Defense:
Water can be very dangerous, please be careful and not curious. Hazardous surf warnings are updated regularly, please listen to media sources for latest information.
An emergency can occur quickly and without warning. The most important thing you can do to keep yourself and your family safe from an emergency is to prepare, stay calm, and follow instruction from emergency personnel.
The following suggestions will help you and your family develop an emergency plan, assemble a preparedness kit, and share some basic information on what to do before, during, and after any emergency. These will also provide you with important information about how to obtain emergency and ongoing disaster recovery assistance.
Before Emergency Strikes
An emergency can occur without warning, leaving little or no time for you and your family to plan what to do next. It is necessary for you to learn about the things you can do to be prepared before an emergency occurs. Two actions that will help you do this are to develop an Emergency Plan, and prepare an Disaster Supply Kit.
Create an Emergency Plan
Before creating your household emergency plan, learn about the types of emergencies that may affect your community, how you’ll be notified of an event, and plans that may be in place to deal with these events. Learn if your community has a warning system-via television, radio, or another signal-recognize what it sounds like and what to do when you hear it. Emergencies may strike when your family members are away from home, so find out about plans at your workplace, school, or anywhere else you and your family spends time.
Steps to take in creating a household emergency plan includes:
- Meet with household members and discuss the dangers of possible emergency events, including fire, severe weather, hazardous spills, and terrorism.
- Discuss how you and your family will respond to each possible emergency.
- Discuss what to do in case of power outages or personal injuries.
- Draw a floor plan of your home. Mark two escape routes from each room.
- Teach adults how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at main switches. If for any reason you do turn off natural gas service to your home, call to restore service, Do not attempt to restore gas service yourself.
- Post emergency contact numbers near all telephones, pre-program emergency numbers into phones with auto-dial capabilities.
- Teach children how and when to dial 9-1-1 to get emergency assistance.
- Teach children how to make long-distance telephone calls.
- Pick a friend or relative that all family members will call if separated (it is often easier to call out-of-state (off-island) during an emergency than within the affected area.
- Instruct household members to turn on the radio for emergency information.
- Pick two meeting places:
- A place near your home.
- A place outside your neighborhood (or off-island) in case you cannot return home after an emergency.
- Take a basic First Aid and CPR Class. Contact American Red Cross for more info.
- Keep family records in a water and fireproof safe. Inexpensive models can be purchased at most hardware store.
Prepare a Disaster Supply Kit
Often during an emergency, electricity, water, heat, air conditioning, or telephone service may not work. Preparing an Disaster Supply Kit ahead of time can save precious time in the event you must evacuate or go without electricity or water for an extended period of time. You can gather water, food, first-aid supplies, clothing, bedding, tools, and other essential items to store at any time.
You should consider including the following items in an Disaster Supply Kit:
- At least a 3-day supply of water (1 gallon per person per day). Store water in sealed, unbreakable containers. Replace every 6 months.
- A 3 to 5 day supply of non-perishable packaged or canned food and a non-electric can opener.
- A change of clothing, rain gear, and sturdy shoes.
- Blankets, bedding, or sleeping bags.
- A first aid kit and prescription medications (be sure to check the expiration dates)
- An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses and solution (be sure to check the expiration dates)
- A list of family physicians, important medical information, and the style and serial number of medical devices such as pacemakers.
- Special items for infants, the elderly, or family members with disabilities.
- A battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries.
- Identification, credit cards, cash, and photocopies of important family documents including home insurance information.
- An extra set of car and house keys.
- Tools such as screwdrivers, cutters, and scissors; duct tape; waterproof matches; a fire extinguisher; flares; plastic storage containers; needle and thread; pen and paper; a compass; garbage bags; and regular household bleach.
Things to think about
If any members of your household have disabilities or are elderly, find out what services may be available to aid in their care or evacuation in the event of an emergency.
If you have pets, you should find out whether potential shelters will allow them many will not In this case, you may with to make arrangements for pets in advance of an emergency.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Helping with neighbors in an emergency can save lives and property. Meet with your community (village) members to plan how you could work together until help arrives. If you are a member of a neighborhood organization, such as a home association or crime watch group, introduce emergency preparedness as a new activity. Know your neighbor;s special skills and consider how you could help those with special needs, such as people with disabilities and elderly persons.
If You Have Pets
Create a survival kit for your pet. This should include:
- Identification collar and rabies tag
- Carrier or cage
- Any medications (be sure to check expiration dates)
- Newspapers and plastic trash bags for handling waste
- At least a two-weeks supply of food, water, and food bowls
- Veterinary records (most animal shelters do not allow pets without proof of vaccination)
If you have no other choice but to leave your pet at home, place your pet in a safe area inside your home with plenty of water and food. Never leave pets chained outside. Place a note outside your home listing what pets are inside, where they are located, and phone numbers of where you can be reached.
After An Emergency Strikes…
After an emergency occurs, it is important to stay calm. Even after an event, there may still be many dangers. What seems like a safe distance or location may not be. Stay tuned to your local emergency station and follow the advice of trained professionals. Unless told to evacuate, avoid roads to allow emergency vehicles access. What you do next can save your life and the lives of others. Here are some helpful hints:
If Your Power Goes Out
- Remain calm, and assist family members or neighbors who may be vulnerable if exposed to extreme heat or cold.
- Locate a flashlight with batteries to use until power comes back on. Do not use candles this can cause a fire.
- Turn off sensitive electric equipment such as computers, VCRs, and televisions.
- Turn off major electric appliances that were on when the power went off. This will help to prevent power surges when electricity is restored.
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep cold in and heat out.
- Do not use the stove to heat your home this can cause a fire or fatal gas leak.
- Use extreme caution when driving. If traffic signals are out, treat each signal as a stop sign come to a complete stop at every intersection and look before you proceed.
- Do not call 9-1-1 to ask about the power outage. Listen to the news radio stations for updates.
Flooding can cause contamination of water supplies. Bad water can contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, and hepatitis. If you think your water may be contaminated, you should purify it before using it. This includes water used for drinking, cooking, cleaning dishes, or bathing. The best way to purify water is to boil it. Boiling. Boiling is considered the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a boil for 3-5 minutes, and then allow it to cool before drinking. Pouring water back and forth between two containers will improve the taste by putting oxygen back into the water.
Business and industry are just as vulnerable to the effects of emergencies as ordinary citizens. Therefore there are basic stops that a business should take to prepare for an emergency. Some of these stops include:
- Prepare backups and store offsite all computer records (i.e. Payroll, inventory records, etc.).
- Have an evacuation plan in place to evacuate staff and customers.
- Maintain sufficient insurance coverage for your business.
- Identify critical business functions that absolutely must continue (i.e. shipping, inventory control, payroll) and come up with processes to ensure these will carry on.
Typhoon Safety Tips
- Secure all important documents in a zip lock bag
- Cover all beds and other items with plastic to protect from water seeping in around windows/doors
- Consider packing matches (consider using child-proof lighters), toilet paper and other things you must keep dry in a zip lock bag
- Closets are a good place for storing large items
- Roll carpets up and away from doors, arrange flashlights, lanterns, candles, and lighters in places where they can be easily found
- When, or if the power goes out unplug all appliances; this will prevent damage from power surge when power is restored.
- Ensure all range controls are in the off position
Typhoon Evacuation Preparations
- Listen to/Watch the local media
- Cooperate with local officials directing evacuation routes
- If you do not have any transportation, make arrangements with relatives, friends, or your local village Mayor Office. Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes
- Gather water, food, clothing, and emergency supplies
- Secure your house by
- Boarding or placing shutter on all windows/doors
- Unplug appliances
- Turn off gas valve
- Turn off the main water valve
- Follow recommended evacuation routes
- Don’t take shortcuts! They may be blocked
- Tie down tin-covered roof extension with cables
- Secure all loose items such as garbage can lids, empty drums,, gardening tools, and any other material that could become airborne during high winds
- Take down all lawn umbrellas and temporary canopies
- Secure plywood or typhoon shutters on windows and have an extra plywood/shutter on hand; wind-thrown debris and wind pressure can break windows
- Remove and secure or waterproof window air conditioners
- Fuel your car; service stations may be closed after the storm
- Ensure that the main gas valve is shut off
- Stay indoors until Condition Four is declared
Post Typhoon Preparations
- Remain in your shelter, until informed by local authorities that it is safe to leave
- Keep tuned to local radio or television stations for advice and instructions from the local government
- Stay away from disaster areas-sightseers should not interrupt crucial rescue and recovery work
- Drive only when necessary and be especially careful. Streets will be filled with debris and down lines/tree
- Avoid loose or dangling power wires and report them immediately to local officials
- Report broken sewer or water mains
- Prevent fires. Local water pressure may bd low, making fire fighting more difficult
- Check refrigerated food for spoilage
- Stay away from river banks until all potential flooding has passed.
Guam Typhoon Conditions
- Condition IV: Guam is always in Condition IV. A typhoon may develop and hit the island within 72 hours.
- Condition III: A typhoon may possibly hit the island within 48 hours.
- Condition II: A typhoon is expected to hit the island within 24 hours.
- Condition I: A typhoon is expected to hit the island within 12 hours. During Condition I, only emergency traffic should be on the roads.
Four Kinds of Tropical Cyclones
- Tropical Depression: maximum sustained surface winds 38 mph.
- Tropical Storm: sustained surface winds 39to 73 mph
- Typhoon: sustained surface winds 74 to 149 mph.
- Super Typhoon: sustained surface winds 150 mph or more
These recommendations and suggestions are intended to improve both natural and man-made disasters preparedness, response and recovery. The contents are meant to improve your readiness capability but do not guarantee the safety of any individual, structure, or facility in a disaster situation. Neither the United States, the Island of Guam nor the Office of Civil Defense assumes liability for any injury, death, or property damage that results from any disasters.
SOURCE: Guam Homeland Security, Office of Civil Defense