That’s the message from Emergency Management Cook Islands chief Charles Carlson, who says: “Disaster risk management, which includes preparedness, is everyone’s responsibility not EMCI or government alone.
“This is cyclone season and everyone is expected to start preparing.
“It is great to see people tying down their houses, especially the old houses that are vulnerable to strong winds and cyclones – however, I still see old houses not being tied down.”
Carlson said there are some simple tasks that can done by the house owners or occupants themselves.
“People tend to leave it till the last minute and then rush off to the shops to buy ropes, hoping they are still in stock.”
Act now, he says.
EMCI is working closely with the 10 puna (villages) on Rarotonga to ensure they have their organisation and structures in place during cyclones to assist the response as required.
“We can’t be out there in the villages so we rely on these puna and their assistance to help us co-ordinate the response in the puna.
“This also applies to the Pa Enua where the mayor, police and council members assist in co-ordinating the response on their island as required.”
In the event of a cyclone hitting Rarotonga there are a number of Evacuation Centres around the island in Arorangi, Nikao, Matavera, Ngatangiia, Te Au O Tonga, Titikaveka and Turangi.
“Safety shelters are a real challenge at the moment, however some buildings have been identified as Evacuation Centres in the phone book.
“People whose houses are vulnerable to sea surge, flooding and damage from the cyclone will require safety shelters.
“People moving into these centres are required to bring their own bedding and food to last at least 24 hours.”
Carlson added: “Bear in mind these are safety shelters for people and not to store household goods.”
He said one of the major concern is the number of tourists on the island if a cyclone was to hit Rarotonga.
“The hotels and accommodators are responsible for their guests, to ensure they are safe and looked after during an event.
“If they know the building is vulnerable or damaged, then they must have alternative accommodation for their guest. This is the time to make those arrangements and not wait till it becomes a disaster.”
And Carlson added: We don’t want a repeat of the past where tourists were being dropped off at designated safety shelters by these accommodators who expected the local community at the shelter to look after them while they took off.
“I would expect that all these accommodators do have a response plan in place and we are here to help with your response plans while its peace time (before disaster strikes).
“During a disaster is not really a good time to be calling me asking for advice or, worse, that you haven’t bothered to prepare for it!”