Pacific Tsunami Warning Center


Lakshaman Bandaranayake of Vanguard Management, who worked with LIRNEasia closely in the post-tsunami period, was kind enough to arrange meetings for Stuart Weinstein of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center who attended the LIRNEasia@5 conference. For those who may not know, Stuart was at the controls on December 26, 2004 when the great earthquake that caused the tsunami occurred. I visited PTWC a few weeks later and met Stuart and his colleague Barry Hirshorn leading to my first piece on early warning, post-tsunami. Despite all the controversies that were swirling around, Stuart and his colleagues were incredibly forthcoming and open, even agreeing to give evidence via a video link for the useless Presidential Commission on the Tsunami. Being the practical man he is, Stuart installed some new software at the Met Department that will help them make better use of ocean level information sent by the World Meteorological Organization and has also drafted some recommendations for the Sri Lanka authorities on how to improve their processes.
A report on the response to the tsunami that hit Samoa shows that preparedness and evacuation planning saved lives even though they had barely eight minutes after the warning from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Countries like India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have enough distance from the unstable Sunda Trench and therefore are likely to have more time to organize evacuations. For Indonesia and Thailand, unfortunately, the time will be less. The Pacific islands were so close to the epicentre of the earthquake that a wall of water hit Samoa within eight minutes after the Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii sent its first bulletin Tuesday. Several Samoans said they heard no sirens or warnings, but fled as soon as they were woken up by the earthquake.
In addition to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawai’i and the center in Japan, it appears that Australia will also be able to provide early detection data. While Australia will be the main beneficiary of the new centre, upgraded and expanded seismic monitoring will now extend to Indian Ocean countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Kenya. “We can be confident now that nearly all these countries have either had their telecommunications upgraded, they’ve had assessment parties go through their countries, (or) their governments because of their loss of life have treated it very seriously.”
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.
By Laura Smith-Spark BBC News Eighteen months after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, hundreds have died after a giant wave struck the Indonesian island of Java. Their deaths have raised questions about the failure of a promised Indian Ocean tsunami early warning system to sound an adequate alert. More than 300 people died and about 140 were reported missing after the tsunami struck Java’s southern coast on Monday. Witnesses have said people had little or no warning to flee the 2m-high wave triggered by an undersea earthquake.
By Nuwan Waidyanatha The Hazard Information Hub (HIH), operated by Sarvodaya as part of the Last-Mile Hazard Information Dissemination Project (HazInfo) to disseminate Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) risk information to the villages in Sri Lanka, monitored the recent tsunami drills conducted in the Pacific by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in the USA. The HazInfo project initiated by LIRNEasia, is a multipartner initiative aimed at tackling the “last-mile” challenges in developing an all-hazards approach to disaster management and mitigation.

Mapping disaster research

Posted by on February 14, 2006  /  5 Comments

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.

Tsunami Lessons

Posted by on April 1, 2005  /  8 Comments

Ten preliminary lessons of the 28th March 2005 Sumatra great earthquake (Photo Source) LIRNEasia, together with Vanguard Foundation, intends to systematically analyze the Sri Lankan media response to the great earthquake of the 28th of March. However, it appears useful to draw some preliminary lessons from this tragedy which has cost over 1,000 lives, including the people of Nias and other islands and those in Sri Lanka and elsewhere who died as a result of the warnings. The conclusions are preliminary; comments are welcome. # Earthquake hazard detection is easy; tsunami hazard detection is not. One cannot simply infer the existence of a destructive tsunami from an earthquake.
The original purpose of the visit was to participate in a super session on “Strategies for implementing universal access.” The session was well attended and useful. My presentation was Expanding Access to ICTs (Powerpoint) Along with Bill Melody’s forceful comments it clearly established the importance of market and regulatory reforms, a position that may otherwise have been deemphasized as a result of the Chair’s interest in subsidies. The visit was also used to pursue the disaster warning-communication issues that have come to the fore in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. On the 18th of January I visited the Big Island’s Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center and the Pacific Tsunami Museum accompanied by Bill Melody and at the invitation of Dr George Curtis, a tsunami expert at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.
I was on the closing plenary at the Pacific Telecom Council, with Peter Anderson (Simon Fraser University, Canada), Stuart Weinstein (Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, Honolulu, USA) and Charlie Kagami (Japan). Plenary Talk Photo The topic was “Disaster warning: how can we get it right the next time?” The talk is What happened in Sri Lanka: And Why it won’t be so bad next time.