Inclusive plan and system important
Tonga shares successful preparedness story
By ILIESA TORA
Suva, Fiji – May 3, 2019: 9.50am (Nuku’alofa Times): Having a well-supported inclusive communication plan will ensure that members of the public are warned early before a natural hazard hits any country.
Mr Leveni ‘Aho, the former director of the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) in Tonga, made the comments at the Pacific Resilience Meeting in Suva on Thursday.
“That is very important,” Mr ‘Aho said.
“You must have an inclusive communication plan that will reach out to everyone, everywhere.
“And more importantly there must be a system, involving all stakeholders which supports that communication plan.”
Presenting as a panellist on the “Early warning, early action” session, Mr ‘Aho shared Tonga’s success story during Cyclone Gita in February 2018.
The category 4 cyclone hit ‘Eua and Tongatapu, causing massive damage across the two islands.
But there was no death recorded – something Mr ‘Aho attributed to the work of both the NEMO and the Tonga Meteorological Office.
He said the decision to ensure there was enough information given to members of the public across Tonga was made in the best interest of the people.
“We have a plan in place that involves making use of all the mediums we are able to use, the media, the social media, people. And then we have a system that backs that which includes the government set up, non-government organisations, civil societies and everyone else,” Mr ‘Aho said.
Tongans who believed their homes were not strong enough to withstand Cyclone Gita moved to evacuation centres early, at least nine hours before the cyclone hit ‘Eua.
“That was impressive and when we did our survey later we found out that people took our messages seriously and took action accordingly,” he said.
“It was a great achievement and we are still working on improving that too.”
Mr ‘Aho said it is critical for governments to ensure that people are able to get information early before hazards hit.
“That helps them make decisions that can save lives,” he added.
Tonga suffered extensive damage to its agriculture and infrastructure sectors during Cyclone Gita but there were no fatalities recorded.
The “Early warning, early action” session was held during the sitting on Strengthened disaster preparedness, response and recovery on day 2 of the Pacific Resilience Meeting.
The inaugural PRM is held in Suva, Fiji from 1 – 3 May, 2019.
Iliesa Tora’s attendance at the Pacific Resilience Meeting was facilitated by the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS) in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
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