Lasting Legacy: Palau National Preparedness Month

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This month of September in Palau is marked by campaigns and activities to raise awareness of disaster preparedness. It’s National Preparedness Month when the island nation hosts roadside awareness campaigns, talk shows, a preparedness fair and multi-hazard drills – and encourages families, businesses and organizations public and private to participate.

It all started with a presidential proclamation in 2019, inspired in part by tsunami preparedness events under a program funded by the Japanese government and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme. Given Palau’s exposure to natural hazards and climate change, the proclamation calls for “the responsibility of everyone in the community to be involved in the nation’s disaster preparedness.”

This year’s theme is “Enduring Legacy”. Among multi-hazard events, tsunami preparedness remains an important priority. On September 6, UNDP joined the government’s efforts for nationwide tsunami siren testing and tsunami drills conducted by Melkeok Primary School.

Kevin Petrini, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative for the North Pacific (Palau, RMI & FSM) emphasized the importance of these drills: “We have worked with schools to practice tsunami drills that allow students to understand what the mermaid, what they should do, where they should go, how they should take care of themselves and ultimately save lives”.

Under the UNDP-Government of Japan project, hundreds of students, teachers and school administrators in Palau have been trained in tsunami preparedness. “The project has been successful in public and private schools, and it is now spreading to the community,” said Mr. Waymine Towai, Executive Director of the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) in Palau.

On September 14 and 15, the Ministry of Education will hold tsunami awareness drills in the remote state of Kayangel, the country’s northernmost island, accessible only by boat. “The Kayangel state government and community members have become so good at evacuation that the state governor asked us not to advertise the evacuation drill so that it comes closer a real disaster,” said Waymine Towai.

Government of Palau, Ministry of Health and Education, UNDP and other partners collaborate to implement tsunami drills

Credits: Ritsuko Nagai, UNDP

Schools are at the center of the tsunami simulation exercise, but require the participation of the whole community. Raynold Mechol, director of school operations at the Ministry of Education, points out that the month of preparation is “a great opportunity to incorporate some activities, raise awareness about the tsunami in schools and beyond.

While September is a key month to step up preparedness in Palau, the country is sustaining its efforts through November as it will conduct a nationwide tsunami exercise to mark World Tsunami Awareness Day.

Disasters have no announced date. Palau knows this and has therefore built a legacy of preparedness, awareness and resilience.


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