Things I’ve learned from Evan
By Morwenna Petaia
It has been almost a month since Cyclone Evan brought his widespread fury and wrath to Samoa. While the rebuilding and recovery stage of our lives is still upon us Evan has taught us each lessons that we can use so that when the next disaster happens we are better prepared and even more resilient.
Heed the Warnings – While I feel for all those who lost lives and belongings, I do not agree that you should place blame on authorities for untimely warnings. I feel that there was ample time given to all regarding the cyclone and also the need to move away from low lying areas that are prone to flooding. In fact I was a little surprised when I was purchasing canned foods, water and gas, when the first warnings were issued on Wednesday, that there were not more people making preparations. Yes my main reason for the preparations was that I knew I had used up all the gas and food knowing that in a few days I was Australia bound so our cupboards were literally bare, but I am so grateful that I did heed the warning. This was my first cyclone so when I heard the warning I jumped and did whatever I could to prepare because even if the cyclone didn't come I know that the peace of mind that I will not have to line up for food and rush around gathering family and belongings is worth so much more than the thought that I could have starved, been hurt or even killed. Any warning should be taken seriously especially when lives are at stake.
Be Prepared – Samoa is located in an area that is prone to tsunami, cyclones, bush fires, earthquakes and drought; we cannot and do not control when a natural disaster will occur. Making sure that we have an evacuation plan in place so that each person in the household knows where to go and what to do in times of a disaster is one way that we can prepare.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints encourages their members to have a food storage and 72 hour kit ready for any kind of an emergency. These kits usually include items like a three day supply of food and water, they found that pop top cans can leak so are not recommended, a can opener, first aid kit, bedding and clothing, toiletries, medication, batteries, torches, candles, waterproof matches, axes pocket knife, dishes and utensils, money and personal documents such as medical reports, passports, legal documents and credit for telephones. Each person in the household would have a kit and it would go into a bag that is easy to transport and placed in an area that is easily accessed should an evacuation be necessary. These kits need to be checked every six months to ensure food and medications are not out of date and also that clothes fit. Something to also consider putting into your 72 hour kit is a board game, books or toys and paper and pens. With the extended periods of time with not power and it being unsafe to go outside, children need something to keep them entertained and it can also be a bonding experience to play games as a family.
Cyclone Evan has shown me that I will need to get a car charger for my phone. With the land lines and power being out of order during the cyclone I was reliant on my mobile phone which needed to be charged regularly. This would have been easy to do if I had a car charger for my phone. During the cyclone mobile phones were our only link to the outside world so making sure to use it only in times of emergencies and keeping a spare battery are also needed.
I will need to make sure that I have boards and rope available to cover the windows and secure the roof of the house. This also includes having a stock of tarpaulins should the roof need mending. Even if we don’t use or need these kits during a disaster they may be needed by our friends, family or neighbours.
Get Insurance – Because we do not know when a disaster will happen or the intensity of a disaster we should make sure that we have insurance that will cover our valuables and things that we have worked hard to obtain. The relief of knowing that you are covered financially should our properties or cars be affected decreases our stress and enables us to help others.
There is always the possibility that a natural disaster could take our lives. For this reason it is also important to take out life insurance. While a cyclone is an ordeal in itself dealing with the death of a loved one while also recovering from a disaster would be unimaginable. While you won’t be there to see the fruits of life insurance, knowing that your family will be taken care of is reason enough.
Disaster Plans – Often we worry more about our homes, as we live in them, and not as much attention is given to schools and other buildings that are important to us. Evan has damaged school buildings and finding a place where the students can attend once school begins is proving to be a topic of interest. Maybe now could be a time where the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture and village councils could make disaster plans for each of their schools where possible places to hold classes and procurement of temporary shelters where classes could be held. This could include discussions with churches for temporary use of their buildings. But by having plans in place makes it easier to know where to go and what to do when a disaster hits; because it is not a question of if a disaster comes but when.