Where is Guam Civil Defense leadership, given specific U.S. preparations against military attack?
We have seen the forward basing to Guam of one of just two experimental “Iron Dome” defensive systems. Earlier, a THAAD facility was emplaced here. Base security is strict. Guam is the center of a Pacific allied forces interoperability training zone. We need not know about other specific defensive systems our military is deploying to protect its assets on Guam. Their mission of protecting the United States includes protecting the U.S. territory of Guam and its residents.
So, what is our local government doing to ensure that residents are reasonably informed about what to do if an alarm is sounded? New loudspeakers are tested in every village to warn residents of impending danger. We prepare a “go” bag and tell our children where to meet in case we are separated when an earthquake occurs. Tsunami route signs are up along our roads. Radio and television stations test the national emergency alert system every week. Our medical community exercises evacuation and medical triage for airplane crash and chemical gas release. Civil Defense operations are underground. Isn’t it time the public is made aware of what to do in the event of attack?
The civilian community is necessary for the continued usefulness of Guam to the U.S. We are not an inconvenience or in the way. We operate hotels and food services, warehouses and ports. We are trained National Guard soldiers and airmen, DZSP base operations support staff, contractors and suppliers. We are skilled medical personnel, heavy equipment operators and utility service providers. Our families are with us. We are a freestanding American community, with twice the land and six times the numbers of people stationed here.
Civil defense in time of war is sometimes thought of as “continuity of government;” in short, ensuring elected leaders and our institutions function. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but my concept of civil defense is for civilians to minimize their own casualties, and to organize an effective response to adversity. Any pretense of remaining a peaceful Asian tourist getaway crumbles with the 2,000 sailors and airmen transiting our hotels on any given day. Do we need a federal grant for our local government to start thinking how we might survive the first day? Or can we expect current leadership to organize us now to survive, and prevail?
What might leadership look like? Is there an All-Hazards Annex on file of what the public is to do in case of attack? Are there marked air raid shelters? Is the list of shelters up to date and publicized? Does Guam have natural shelters, in narrow river valleys, ravines or bays? Do we know how emergency information would be shared? How would we know an all-clear has been sounded?
Some may wish the bases were gone, so Guam could become an idyllic undiscovered backwater once again. That dream didn’t prevail in 1941, in 1898, or in 1687. We are blessed with a homeland coveted since discovery by powerful nations for its location, size and fresh clean water. We’ve survived centuries of foreign domination. We have to stay alive to be in the game. So, where is that plan, Civil Defense?
Darryl Taggerty is a resident of Tamuning, He is the host of “Jazz on the Seventh Day” on Public Radio Guam and a substitute host of “Tall Tales” on The Point, 93.3FM.