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Team Andersen recognized for tsunami and typhoon readiness

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- During a ceremony on Friday, 4 April, the National Weather Service honored Team Anderson for sustained tsunami and typhoon readiness efforts. The ceremony at the Sunrise Conference Center, which was attended by Guam's U.S. Congress Representative, Madeleine Bordallo, recognized the wing for attaining a three-year storm- and tsunami-ready certification, the most allowable.

While accepting the award on behalf of the base, Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 36th Wing Commander, related a story from early in his command when he received a phone call from command post in the middle of the night notifying him of a tsunami alert for Guam. While Andersen was ultimately unaffected, Garland noted how much he relied on Team Andersen's readiness to keep the base postured for future natural disasters.

The general then recognized the efforts of Tech. Sgt. Bruce Byrne, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron Emergency Management Flight chief, and Airman 1st Class Keifer Roberts, 36th CES EM program manager. These airmen were responsible for the certified response plans that ensure the base is prepared to evacuate the Tarague Basin and close the roads leading down to the basin in the event of a natural disaster.

According to National Weather Service officials, the Northern Mariana Islands, including Guam, are susceptible to intense typhoons year-round. The islands are also vulnerable to tsunamis resulting from earthquakes near the Marianas Trench at the junction of the Philippine Plate and Pacific Plate. Because most of Andersen is perched atop a plateau, the only areas potentially affected would be Tarague Beach, Serena Beach, Scout Beach and the Combat Arms Training and Maintenance facility because they are positioned closer to sea level. However, Brig. Gen. Garland stresses that many base personnel live off-base in potentially tsunami-affected areas of the island and, thus, need to be prepared off duty as well.

"Andersen has a limited area that may be affected; however, it is still important for people to know how to respond," said Charles "Chip" Guard, National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist. "People need to know how to disseminate instructions, how to close off beaches and roads so they are not involved in a destructive tsunami ... because when a destructive tsunami happens, it is better not to take chances."

The last recorded tsunami impacting Guam was 8-10 inches high and took place on March 11, 2011, after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku, Japan.

"I worry ... because Guam and (Andersen) have gone so long without a direct hit from a typhoon or tsunami that the base and community (can't) become complacent," Roberts said. "I am doing everything in my power to ensure the base populaces are as informed as possible."

For more information, click here to visit the official Andersen typhoon preparation fact sheet.