USAG Japan officials stress need for typhoon preparedness

U.S. Army Garrison Japan officials work in the Emergency Operations Center in Building 102 on Camp Zama, Japan, March 26. (Photo Credit: Winifred Brown)
U.S. Army Garrison Japan officials work in the Emergency Operations Center in Building 102 on Camp Zama, Japan, March 26. (Photo Credit: Winifred Brown)

USAG Japan officials stress need for typhoon preparedness

by Winifred Brown
U.S. Army

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Sept. 15, 2020) – Not only is September National Preparedness Month, it is also a peak month during Japan’s typhoon season—known for dangerous storms with powerful winds and heavy rainfall.

For that reason, U.S. Army Garrison Japan officials urge members of the community to have a plan in place, build and maintain an emergency preparedness kit, and know the available sources of information during a typhoon.

“It’s too late to prepare when a typhoon hits, so it is important to prepare ahead,” said Shawn Shaffell, director of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, USAG Japan. “If you have a disaster preparedness kit, look it over and make any necessary adjustments, and if you don’t, make one as soon as possible. It is crucial to stay informed before, during and after a typhoon.”

Japan’s typhoon season lasts from May through October, and USAG Japan officials use the Garrison’s Facebook page, the Commander’s Channel, American Forces Network TV and radio broadcasts, and direct cellphone and email messaging through the Alert! system, to keep members of the community informed, said Joe Kelley, a management analyst in the emergency management office of DPTMS, USAG Japan.

Residents can expect to see a series of standard Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness, or TCCOR, alerts as officials track approaching typhoons, Kelley said.

The TCCOR alerts—and suggested steps to take with each—include:

TCCOR 5: Destructive winds of 50 knots (58 mph) or greater are possible within 96 hours. Review your family plan, to include emergency procedures, temporary safe haven locations and emergency notification rosters. Ensure your emergency supply kit is complete and readily available.

TCCOR 4: Destructive winds of 50 knots (58 mph) or greater are anticipated within 72 hours. Review your family plan and ensure your emergency supply kit is ready.

TCCOR 3: Winds of 50 knots (58 mph) or greater are possible within 48 hours. Ensure your emergency supply kit is complete and available. Secure large items around the outside of your home and bring smaller items indoors. Ensure shed doors and other outer doors and windows are secured. Validate food and water supplies and radio operability. Cancel or reschedule travel plans.

TCCOR 2: Winds of 50 knots (58 mph) or greater are anticipated within 24 hours. Set your freezer to the coldest temperature to minimize spoilage in case of a power outage. Ensure your emergency supply kit is ready, to include water. Monitor AFN radio and the Garrison Facebook page.

TCCOR 1: Winds of 50 knots (58 mph) or greater are occurring or anticipated within 12 hours. Please continue to watch for updates on possible facility or school closures. Ensure your emergency supply kit is ready, to include water. Watch for updates on facility closures. Bring pets indoors.

TCCOR 1 Caution: Winds of 39 to 49 knots sustained are occurring. Stay indoors. Non-essential travel is suspended, and non-essential personnel should remain indoors. Watch for continued updates.

TCCOR 1 Emergency: Winds of 50 knots (58 mph) or greater are occurring. Stay inside. Do not attempt to go outside until TCCOR All Clear is announced. Close blinds and drapes to prevent possible injury from broken glass. Be prepared to use your shelter-in-place room if windows break.

TCCOR 1R: Destructive winds have subsided and are no longer forecasted to occur. Stay indoors, please. Work crews are surveying the extent of damage and ensuring there are no safety hazards. Remain indoors until TCCOR All Clear has been announced. Never touch downed powerlines or breaker boxes. Report damage to the Directorate of Public Works at (COMM) 046-407-8627.

Storm Watch: Strong winds are not forecasted to occur, however, winds of 35 knots sustained or greater are possible due to the proximity of a tropical cyclone. Monitor storm and stay cautious. The storm could change direction and impact your location.

TCCOR All Clear: There is no longer a threat of severe weather. Resume normal activities, and keep safe.

Kelley said he emphasizes the need for community members to wait for the TCCOR All Clear call before going outside.

“We don’t want anyone to go out until the ‘all clear’ is called because we want our crews to go out and do their surveys and check for safety,” Kelley said, adding that typhoons can cause downed trees, downed powerlines and other hazards.

In addition, community members should make sure their information in the Alert! system is up-to-date, Kelley said. To do so, visit https://alert.csd.disa.mil and click the “DoD and All Services” icon.

Kelley said he also recommends keeping an eye on the weather either by watching Japanese news (for Japanese speakers), AFN news or downloading an English-language weather app.

“If you see [a typhoon] coming our way, then it’s a good idea to know that your emergency kit is ready and [to] be prepared as much as you can be,” Kelley said, emphasizing that flashlights are an especially crucial item to have.

“You should always be prepared for the worst-case scenario,” Kelley said. “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Scot Freeman, installation emergency manager, DPTMS, USAG Japan, said the Army’s Ready Army program provides an important framework for disaster preparation.

The program’s four pillars are: Be Informed, Make a Plan, Build a Kit, and Get Involved. To learn more, visit https://ready.army.mil.

To become informed, Freeman recommended visiting the Ready Army website, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s site at www.ready.gov.

When it comes to making a plan, it is important to ensure everyone in the family knows where to meet should they become separated during an emergency, Freeman said. They also need to know how they will communicate with one another.

In the event of a major disaster, military officials will likely declare an order of general accountability, so having a plan helps ensure no one gets lost, Freeman said.

“It’s not just for the benefit of your immediate household, but for the benefit of your relatives back stateside … as well as your chain of command,” Freeman said.

Meanwhile, the Ready Army and FEMA Ready.gov sites can help community members build a comprehensive emergency kit, Freeman said.

Kits should include nonperishable food, and an amount of food that is going to last for at least three meals a day, per person, for three days, Freeman said. In terms of water, the rule of thumb is one gallon, per person, per day.

The items community members should include in their kits, however, are too many to list, Freeman said, so it is important to consult the aforementioned websites. They are also helpful because online lists include items many might not be considering.

Some of those items include: important paperwork such as insurance policies, marriage certificates and titles; cash in small denominations in case the power goes out and ATMs don’t work; and power banks to ensure cellphones stay charged, Freeman said.

A hand-crank radio is another useful item because it will conserve batteries for other uses, Freeman said.

In addition, don’t forget to have extra pet food and necessary medications on hand, Freeman said.

The reason Ready Army includes “Get Involved” as a pillar is because community involvement can help before, during and after disasters by training people and providing support, Freeman said.

Volunteering at Army Community Service or the American Red Cross, for example, are two ways to get involved, Freeman said.

Kelley also provided tips on what to do before, during and after a storm.

Before a storm, it is important to review and update your family emergency plan; move high-value items to the center of your home and away from windows; secure all outdoor loose objects; fully charge cellphones and portable electronics; fuel your car, and have your emergency kit ready.

During a storm, community members should roll up carpets and move them away from doors; leave flashlights in convenient locations; unplug appliances to prevent power surges if the power goes out; ensure all oven and stove controls are off; lock doors and close windows; turn off fans, air conditioners and force-air heating systems; and avoid elevators.

After a storm, people should account for family members and pets; don’t leave home until TCCOR All Clear has been announced; avoid all downed power lines and report them immediately; assist or aid neighbors as needed; and notify stateside family members, units or supervisors of your status.

The U.S. Army Japan website also provides information about typhoons and how to prepare for them at https://www.usarj.army.mil/information/ndp/.

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