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Staying ready for when disaster strikes

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It only takes one to cause a catastrophe. And while Guam has been lucky recently, the Western Pacific region experiences an average of 25 to 30 typhoons every year.

It's a plan to save lives, restore critical infrastructure, and help the island recover quickly from natural disasters. Federal Emergency Management Agency acting regional administrator Dr. Ahsha Tribble met with island officials this morning to discuss updates to the 2017 Guam Catastrophic Typhoon Plan. Although the plan hasn't been updated since 2010, she said the island has taken significant steps to implement mitigation projects over the past seven years.

"So whether its hardening your infrastructure, hardening your ports, hardening your power polls - a lot has happened and that's great, so what we do is we build off those strategies that you put forward and update the plan accordingly and figure out where we need to focus our efforts next," she said.

These efforts are essential considering the frequency and severity of storms can sometimes be unpredictable. "We hesitate to focus on do you think we'll have more or less, because it only takes one storm to devastate us - as you saw especially in the CNMI, you saw with Soudelor," she qualified.

The Category-4 Typhoon surprised Saipan in 2015 with winds reaching 160 miles per hour, and severe damage to the island's infrastructure and economy. These are the consequences Office of Civil Defense administrator Charles Esteves said he wants to avoid, noting, "In here, not only do we have all our local, federal, military partners, we also have our volunteers active in disasters, we're using the national response framework, national recovery framework, all these different frameworks to assist us in planning."

The seminar is also in preparation for the 2017 Typhoon Pakyo exercise. The exercise is scheduled for this June, and will simulate what will happen if Guam is hit by a Category-5 typhoon. "We asked to break the Port of Guam, so during this exercise, we will have a loss of Port Authority of Guam operations," said Esteves. "So part of the plan and what we want to exercise is how will we restore the Port Authority of Guam operation."

The exercise will include participation from both local and federal agencies.

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