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CNMI activates Multi-Agency Coordinating Group for Bolaven

Craig Browning, external affairs officer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, left, and Franklin Babauta, right, CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management special assistant. Photo by Andrew Roberto/Marianas Variety

By Andrew Roberto

Saipan (Marianas Variety) -- At a press conference Monday, Oct. 9, at CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Special Assistant Franklin Babauta and Craig Browning, external affairs Officer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, briefed media about local and federal preparations that were underway as Tropical Storm Bolaven headed to the Marianas.

Babauta said they have activated their Multi-Agency Coordinating Group, which brings government and private sector partners together to “discuss the possibility of the [storm] hitting us and what actions to take.”

He stressed the importance of preparing for the storm. “It’s better to be more prepared than not prepared at all,” he added.

Browning, for his part, said FEMA advises having seven to 10 days of food and water stored as part of storm preparation.

As for Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation patients, Babauta said he sent requests for aerial medivacs if the need arises.

Asked about the level of fuel at the storage tanks of the island’s two fuel companies, Babauta said HSEM was informed that they were in good condition.

“We did discuss the fuel level,” Babauta said. “They are topped off at this time. There are no major concerns that we are anticipating at this time.”

He added that the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport will “remain open until further notice.”

Babauta said the Federal Aviation Administration has its own guidelines for closing airports.

Gary Sword, owner of KKMP radio station, said their radio infrastructure was “pretty solid.” He said with the opening of radio stations on Tinian and Rota, they will “simulcast” one message across all three islands.

Sword said he is also set to partner with the mayors of Tinian and Rota to broadcast public messages.

Browning said 175 FEMA personnel have so far been tapped to respond to the approaching storm.

He said there are a further 200 FEMA personnel on Guam in relation to the Typhoon Mawar response from a few months ago. He added that FEMA’s Incident Management Assessment Team is already on Saipan in anticipation of Bolaven.

Browning said in the event of damage to a home, homeowners do not need to wait for FEMA assessment teams before starting their home repairs.

Browning said homeowners should document the damage in some way — whether through photos or written descriptions — and “start recovery.”

“What’s important is you don’t have to wait for FEMA to start making those repairs,” he said. “Take pictures, document your damage, and when [an emergency] declaration comes that will open those additional resources. But don’t wait for us. Start your recovery, especially making your house habitable…make those repairs.”

Frankie Eliptico, Northern Marianas College’s vice president of advancement and administration, advised community members to follow public notices as they are made available.

“What we ask is to please rely on the official sources of information, including the National Weather Service and the information that is being pushed from the Homeland Security office,” he added.

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