It was not all sunshine and fare weather that greeted us on the December 26th this year in Sri Lanka. Instead a country in a crisis dealing with the continuous week long rains washing away sides of hills and flooding (copy of Dec 26th landslide and flood warnings issued by DMC). While we were at the Hambantota exhibition, there was uncertainty in being cut-off from Colombo with flash floods crossing roads in various E/A/B network. Had the rains continued on the 26th we may have been stranded or had great difficulty returning to Colombo. An incident or situational map, like Google’s Alerthub, would have been informative in comforting the uncertainties.
In 2007, after false warnings and unnecessary evacuations in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, I wrote the following (published in India in early 2008): Given the massive costs associated with evacuation orders (not only in lost productivity but deaths, injuries and other negative outcomes), government must be the sole authority. Given the certainty of blame if a tsunami does hit, over-use of warnings and evacuation orders is likely. It is important that procedures be established not only to make considered but quick decisions about watch/warning/evacuation messages, but also to counter the bias toward excessive warnings and evacuation orders. Disaster risk-reduction professionals know that false warnings are an artefact of the inexact art of predicting the onset of hazards: but the general public does not. If they are subject to too many false warnings, they will not respond even to true warnings.
A member of the Presidential Commission on the Tsunami has written an informative article on floods, dam breaches and the lack of warning about them. Twenty one years after Kantale, 2.5 years after the tsunami, 1.5 years after we handed over our extensive report on dam safety to the Disaster Management Center, more sensible writing on the subject. The analysis is done, the remedies known, now is the time for implementation.
It has been a practice at LIRNEasia to write an assessment of the responses to potentially tsunamigenic events in the region. We commented on Nias and Pangandaran. Now that the discussion on the response is starting, here is our take: Lessons from the Sri Lanka tsunami warnings and evacuation of September 12-13, 2007 The tragedy of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was the absence of any official warning. The September 12th Bengkulu earthquake shows that this is unlikely to be the case in the future. We have seen that the new institutions created since the 2004 tsunami have the will and the capacity to act.
On Friday, September 7, 2007, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights (MDMHR), with the support of LIRNEasia, held a meeting on “The Role of Telecom Operators and Broadcasters in a National Public Warning System” with a six of the eight major telecom operators, as well as several disaster management-related government agencies (NBRO, Irrigation Dept., Meteorology Dept., CCP, etc.), UNDP, and a few technical institutes. Mr.
NSF EXPLORATORY WORKSHOP ON SENSOR BASED INFRASTRUCTURE FOR EARLY TSUNAMI DETECTION, Maui, Feb 9-10, 2006 What I learned during my visits to the Civil Defense Center and the Tsunami Museum in Hilo and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach in Hawai’i last January greatly contributed to the disaster communication research program undertaken by LIRNEasia in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Therefore, I welcomed the opportunity to step back and reflect on the research program a year later, also in Hawai’i. The occasion was a workshop funded by the National Science Foundation of the US. It was organized by Louise Comfort, Daniel Mosse and Taieb Znati, all at the U of Pittsburgh. Louise is from Public Policy and has been working on disasters for a long time.