LIRNEasia is a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific

Of concern, but easier solutions are available for tsunami warning

The warning towers erected after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami are said to be dysfunctional, according to Reuters:

Thailand’s warning system includes warning towers, a network of detection buoys in the sea and public announcement systems.

“Around 70 to 80 percent, or around 2,000 pieces, need to be taken care of. We set up this system since 2006 so it needs to be maintained,” Kobchai Boonyaorana, deputy director-general of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, told Reuters, referring to various equipment.

“Batteries need to be changed,” he added, “I’ve ordered that this needs to be done urgently particularly in the southern region which is a tourist region. There might be some places where the equipment is damaged but not many places.”

This is not unusual. The warning towers erected in Sri Lanka rarely worked. Some said their primary purpose was that of enabling the collection of commissions. But we felt that they served a more functional purpose: that of demonstrating that something was being done, especially to tourists. A kind of disaster warning “theater.”

It is unreasonable to expect things that are not regularly used to work well. That is the philosophy we brought to our work on cell broadcasting in the Maldives. Phones are used regularly. No one needs to worry about replacing their batteries. Why not use the mobile network for warnings?

Thailand, unlike Sri Lanka, has its own tsunami detection buoys. These need to be tested and maintained. That is a justified priority.

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