By Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla, 18th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 11, 2021
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gabriel Gowen, an Emergency Management journeyman from the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron, updates the Typhoon Guide on Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 6, 2021. Emergency Management specialists regularly make updates to ensure the most accurate information is available to the U.S. military community in Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla)
Typhoon season in Okinawa takes place between June 1 - Nov. 30, but typhoons can occur anytime throughout the year. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gabriel Gowen, an Emergency Management journeyman from the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron, arranges pamphlets on an information display at Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 6, 2021. The office of Emergency Management is tasked to keep Kadena Air Base safe through planning, preparing, responding and recovering from hazards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla)
Have you ever wondered who keeps Kadena Air Base safe through planning, preparing, responding and recovering from hazards? The 18th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Emergency Management Flight is tasked to do just that.
Here on Kadena, one of the most prominent hazards EM prepares for yearly is typhoons, explained Senior Airman Tristen Kientz, a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives craftsman from the 18th CES.
Typhoons are tropical cyclones that form in the Pacific Ocean. The area surrounding Okinawa is extremely susceptible to typhoons due to the high humidity in the atmosphere and warm water temperatures. Typhoon season in Okinawa takes place between June 1 - Nov. 30, but typhoons can occur anytime throughout the year.
Most people associate typhoons with high wind and heavy rain, but they can also bring about other threats such as storm surges — a rise in sea level — and flying debris caused by high winds.
If a typhoon does occur, the U.S. military community prepares for the storm by implementing actions outlined in Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness. The TCCOR levels are gradual states of readiness based on the forecasts of 50 knot winds or greater, and give time frames to anticipate when weather severity will fluctuate.
In April, Typhoon Preparedness Month, EM begins conducting various outreach events and programs to ensure the military community in Okinawa is well prepared before the start of typhoon season.
"In the last couple of weeks, we have set up six information booths at the Exchanges and other locations on Camp Schwab, Camp Hansen and here on Kadena,” said Master Sgt. Randy Golleher, NCO in charge of EM. “A few weeks ago we also participated in an AFN Wave segment where we explained the TCCOR levels.”
Along with disseminating information to the community, the EM Flight coordinates with each EM unit representative on Kadena to ensure every work center has the necessary resources to be informed and prepared for typhoons, he explained.
Once a typhoon is predicted to affect Okinawa, the Flight begins taking the necessary steps to keep the community safe by monitoring the weather conditions.
"When a typhoon is approaching, we stand up the virtual Emergency Operations Center with all of our island partners,” Golleher said. “We also begin to monitor the typhoon through the Defense Communications System and we make sure all military branches understand what TCCOR level we’re in.”
Once the typhoon hits Okinawa, EM continues to monitor the storm and begins tracking any damages the storm causes.
"We monitor and track all the damage the typhoon causes at the Civil Engineering Unit Control Center,” Golleher said. “Once all of the damage has been reported and assessed, that information is provided to an 18th Civil Engineer Group commander, who provides a recommendation to the 18th Wing commander on moving on to the TCCOR all clear or storm watch.”
Even after typhoon season passes, they continue to make sure they’re prepared for the next year.
"Outside of Typhoon Awareness Month and typhoon season, we conduct tabletop exercises with EM representatives from the other services to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row for future typhoons,” Kientz said.
Preparing for typhoon season is everyone’s responsibility. There are many online and physical resources available to ensure individuals are ready for a typhoon such as the Okinawa Typhoon Preparation pamphlet, the Typhoon Guide, the Shogun weather page found on Kadena.af.mil, listening to the AFN Wave 89.1 and for base housing residents, free sandbags from the Kadena Eagle Hardware store.
"Everyone should have their emergency supplies on hand already. Don’t wait until the last minute to go to the store to buy food,” Golleher said. Purchase your supplies, get your free sandbags and you’ll be properly prepared.”