Letter to the Editor: Advance preparation vital when faced with natural disasters

For the past few weeks, television and internet news channels have been literally awash in images of the aftermath of deadly hurricane Harvey and its path of destruction throughout the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. Although we are two years removed from Typhoon Maysak, rebuilding work still continues in the Outer Islands of Chuuk and Yap States to recover from its savage fury. These recent events underscore the need for advance preparedness well before the next storm strikes your island. The best preparation involves planning long before the next dangerous threat arises.
The first step involves getting supplies long before a storm and having them readily available when needed. Most people wait until the day before to buy supplies, and by then stores will usually quickly run out of the most important necessities. Take the time to buy needed supplies before the first typhoon watch issues. This simple step will save you much time, stress, and money in the future. Essential supplies include non-refrigerated and non-frozen food, bottled water, water containers, candles, matches, a kerosene stove, kerosene, a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, and a backup generator, fuel. You should also invest in a DC-only powered telephone; a cell phone will not be of much use once its battery runs out and there is no way to charge it again. These items will help you tremendously and make like much more comfortable if your house loses power for an extended period of time.
While staying inside your home is usually recommended during most tropical storms, in the event of a powerful typhoon, this may not be your best or safest option. Many internet websites emphasize the importance of evacuation plans and routes to reach safe havens. It will prove critical to have this information on-hand well in advance, in case existing conditions require immediate action. Think now of where you will go if you have to relocate your family as the storm approaches. Know where your nearest “go to” shelter is in case you need to leave in a hurry to reach it. Print out an evacuation plan and an exit route and have them posted or kept handy at home. Remember, you may not be at your house or you may even be off-island when it happens. Also, the weather, limited bandwidth, or heavy online usage may significantly impair your ability to connect to the internet.
Finally, it is important to prepare and protect your personal property now before a storm strikes. Make copies of important documents and store them in a safe place. Back up your electronic data in at least two formats. Carefully examine the outside exterior of your home, looking for any existing damage. Strong winds and storm surge will increase the scope and extent of any pre-existing problems, resulting in major structural damage. Make sure all gates and doors are kept securely locked, to reduce the chances of strong winds ripping them from their hinges. Most importantly, talk now with your other family members and friends to ensure they and their homes are also prepared.
The FSM OEED, your State Disaster Coordinator’s Office, and the Micronesia Red Cross all have additional information and handouts on emergency and disaster preparedness which they will gladly share with you. Find their local office on your island and contact them now.
Each and every year carries the potential for severe storms due to our location in the Typhoon Belt of the Western Pacific. While we can never predict the next typhoon, getting ready in advance will help keep you and your loved ones ASAP (as safe as possible).
Plan now; act now. Later you will be very glad that you did.
Gary Bloom, Area Director,
Area III (FSM)
Office United States Department of Agriculture
Rural Development