Guam does not have an islandwide evacuation plan in the event of a ballistic missile threat. To address this, Guam Homeland Security is reaching out to the mayors for help.
Two years ago, a false missile alert in Hawaii brought to light real concerns about having emergency measures in place should Guam face a real threat.
Without a plan in place, the basic action — if notified of an imminent missile threat — is to shelter in place. According to Guam Homeland Security, this means going to a small room with no or few windows during an emergency.
According to GHS, it is the easiest way to keep people safe during an emergency situation — be it a chemical, biological, or radiological emergency.
On Wednesday, at the Mayor’s Council of Guam special meeting, officials from Homeland Security acknowledged the gap and recognized the mayors’ input in developing the plan..
Jenna Blas, acting administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, said: “Does Guam have an islandwide evacuation plan? It is a well-known fact that there is no islandwide evacuation plan. We are talking about a ballistic missile threat ….how are we going to get everyone off the island?”
Major General Esther J.C. Aguigui, Homeland Security Advisor, said: “This is the group of folks who we have to take serious instructions and recommendations from..because you are vetted in your communities and you know exactly what works and what does not work.”
MCOG President Mayor Melissa Savares mentioned one of the major challenges in delivering emergency information to their village constituents.
“We continue to tell people that the best steps they can do is to stay in place…don’t panic, just stay in a concrete facility and close your doors. But we get the same people who say I don’t listen to the radio, I don’t watch the news, I don’t read the newspaper,” Savares said.
During the meeting, Aguigui emphasized the mayors’ role in developing the plan. She said the mayors are the subject matter experts when it comes to evacuating their communities.
The mayors have become experts in typhoon preparation and typhoon recovery. However, when it comes to a missile attack — just like the COVID pandemic — they don’t exactly have a plan for those scenarios and are doing the best they can with the limited resources and information they have.