HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 587: 27 October 2011

Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning: Prepare for cyclone season
Cyclone is approaching with November to April the official cyclone season in the Cook Islands. The message from the disaster management team of EMCI, Airport Authority, Outer Islands Adminstrations, Met Office, MOH, MOIP, Police and Red Cross is: “Be prepared and preparations should start now”.
Members of the disaster management team are currently attending a weeklong workshop on Disaster Risk Management funded by SPC and NZ MCDEM and by SOPAC.
What is disaster risk reduction and risk management?
The five cyclones within 5 weeks in February and early March 2005 were a wake-up call for the Cook Islands to be better prepared for such events. Official estimates of $20.5 million in losses from the damage caused in that season and do not include the damage bill from cyclone Pat in 2010.
After the experiences of 2005 when resort guests had to be evacuated and housed in a school hall, authorities realized that having safety shelters in a state of readiness was an essential part of disaster risk management.
This ‘gap’ in our country’s disaster risk management has since been addressed with the refurbishment of shelters, or a new shelter built as on the island of Pukapuka. The new shelter is funded by European Union and is on schedule to be finished by the end of November 2011.
Ensuring that roads are kept clear and essential services like power and telephone lines are not affected is also part of preparedness and trees likely to fall on power lines or block the roadway are trimmed back by the relevant agency.
Safeguard your home or business
Part of cyclone preparedness is having your roof checked and if repairs are needed, make sure all the old punu is taken away for recycling. Also trim back any tree branches that may overhang the house so they will not pose a danger in heavy weather. Trimming heavy branches is said to make the trees better able to withstand the high winds.
During this season, have an emergency kit ready for the household or taken to the emergency shelter, in case of evacuation Essentials include: torch, batteries, tins of food, large water containers, cabin bread and battery operated radio, first aid kit, medicines and personal toiletries.
In the event of a cyclone warning, smaller businesses on the seaside should consider putting their stock into containers and temporarily moved to higher ground. Merely putting your stock higher on shelves is not enough, as some waterfront businesses found to their cost in the cyclones of 2005.
Cyclone shelters and community facilities
Sea surge is another danger and if households on coastal or low lying areas are asked to leave their hoes and move to higher ground, they should take their emergency kit of food and water and other essentials and move in with family or friends.
Otherwise they may need to move into the closest emergency shelter (school halls, church halls or meeting houses) in their respective Oire. If evacuated, switch off the electricity and disconnect the gas bottle as a safety precaution.
Early warning systems
Conducting awareness programmes with schools to ensure teachers and pupils are familiar with evacuation routes and safety procedures in an emergency situation is also part of preparedness.
Tsunami road signs to show the closest evacuation route inland have been posted on roadways all over the island. The signs were funded by the New Zealand Civil Service while the siren systems were funded by TAU in a project driven by their former chairman.
All efforts toward cyclone risk reduction and cyclone preparedness are towards trying to achieve a “Safe, secure and resilient community” as outlined in goal number four in the NSDP.
MOIP press release

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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