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FEMA Invests $100 Million in Post-Tsunami Disaster Relief & Emergency Preparedness Improvements for American Samoa

Date: 2012-09-29
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NOAA will certify Territory as 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.  

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.  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. 

"This subduction zone will continue to produce earthquakes and potentially damaging tsunamis," said FEMA 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 the South Pacific Tsunami was generated by a series of earthquakes that took place at possibly the closest point of this trench to American Samoa, causing fatalities and regional devastation.  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.  "This is a perfect example of the resilience of the Pacific Islanders and the value of government coordination and cooperation.  Everyone met this disaster head on and never stopped moving forward.  This recognition is something that the people of American Samoa and their many partners can be very proud of," said Jeff LaDouce, Director of NOAA's National Weather Service Pacific Region.

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. 

FEMA's aggregated financial assistance to long term recovery have included:

Awarding more than $37 million in FEMA's Individual Assistance programs.  This includes assistance under various FEMA programs, including Housing Assistance, Other Needs Assistance that provided support for dental, medical, moving, storage and a variety of other needs

  • The award of more than $54 million to the ASG to rebuild public infrastructure, mitigate against future disasters and reimburse the American Samoa government for some of the money spent during the initial response.
  • In consultation with the American Samoan Government, FEMA has rebuilt and turned over 39 permanent replacement homes to deserving American Samoan families who lost their homes as a result of the devastating tsunami. 
  • The award of more than $8 Million in Homeland Security Grant Program funds and Public Safety Interoperable Communications funding used for planning and to help American Samoa to be more prepared for natural disasters, train first responders and citizens of American Samoa and provide much needed communication equipment. 

The TsunamiReady program is administered by the National Weather Service as a way to increase and strengthen the ability of communities to prepare for, mitigate, and recover from natural hazards

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via FEMA, 9/27/12)

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