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Always Prepare: Kadena opens gates to Chatan town during tsunami exercise

A resident of Chatan makes his way to higher ground on Kadena Air Base, Japan, as part of a bilateral tsunami exercise Feb. 28, 2018. The exercise was organized to support an agreement made in 2014 that opens Kadena's gates to the local population in the event of a natural disaster. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

Always Prepare: Kadena opens gates to Chatan town during tsunami exercise

Residents of Chatan make their way through Kadena Air Base, Japan, as part of a bilateral tsunami exercise Feb. 28, 2018. Security Forces personnel provided gate entry to all participants and provided escorts as the locals made their way to a designated recovery zone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

Always Prepare: Kadena opens gates to Chatan town during tsunami exercise

Okinawan first responders and Team Kadena Airmen await evacuees during a bilateral tsunami exercise Feb. 28, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The tsunami evacuation exercise is one possible scenario that both nations can train for, execute and evaluate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

Always Prepare: Kadena opens gates to Chatan town during tsunami exercise

U.S. Air Force Col. Gilbert Eddy, 18th Mission Support Group commander, delivers a speech to participants of a tsunami evacuation exercise Feb. 28,2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Preparation is invaluable when the need to respond to a disaster arises and this sort of exercise allows people to see what would happen in a real-world situation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

Always Prepare: Kadena opens gates to Chatan town during tsunami exercise

An Okinawan first responder stands ready to provide medical aid during a bilateral tsunami exercise Feb. 28, 2018. Exercises like this help the U.S. Military and civil authorities face any emergency that could occur on Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Okinawan and military first responders hosted a bilateral natural disaster exercise at Kadena Air Base Feb. 28, 2018, to test and improve evacuation procedures between members of Team Kadena and the local community.

Approximately 50 residents participated in a simulated evacuation of Chatan Town. In the event of a tsunami, residents from low-elevation areas near the Sunabe Seawall evacuate to higher ground through the base.

The drill began with a simulated tsunami notification; the sounding of coastal tsunami alarms and wide-spread alert notifications sent to mobile phones.

"The drill prepares both military members and Okinawan citizens for tsunamis,” said Master Sgt. David Izaguirre, 18th Security Forces response force leader. “The 18th Security Forces supports citizens during a tsunami by providing expedited entry onto Kadena AB and escort personnel to an area that provides relief from the disaster to minimize chaos.”

During the drill, Defenders from the 18th SFS provided a route to evacuees as they made their way from Gate One to the designated recovery zone at Marek Field Park, where medical teams from the 18th Medical Group and local communities stood by to provide care.

In 2011 the Tohoku earthquake that occurred off the coast of Japan caused massive waves that were recorded up to 40.5 meters (133ft) high. The following tsunami that struck claimed thousands of lives. Marek Park is more than 133 feet above sea level making it the ideal evacuation location for Chatan residents.

“Marek Park is a high point on Kadena that serves as a place to get away from a wave caused by an earthquake,” Izaguirre said. “Marek Park and everything west of it is higher than 133 feet above sea level. Additionally, Marek Park is a convenient area to situate large crowds of personnel.”

The evacuation drill ended with closing remarks from Kamiyama Masakatsu, Chatan Town deputy mayor and U.S. Air Force Col. Gilbert Eddy, 18th Force Support Squadron commander.

“This represents the fourth opportunity since 2015 we’ve had to practice for a tsunami that may happen in Chatan,” Eddy said. “We will do our best to continue to work with the military and civilian authorities to ensure we can support Chatan as well as possible.”

Exercises like the tsunami drill present an opportunity for both the military and civilian authorities of Okinawa to partner with one another in an effort to prepare for not only a tsunami, but other natural disasters as well.

“We stand committed and ready to provide support for the safety of our Okinawan families and friends,” Eddy said. “This exercise reinforces our pledge to work together to solve areas of concern and to maintain the spirit of cooperation with our hosts.”