Warning systems


It is disappointing to see sirens still being promoted despite the demonstrated problems. And I think Kogami was present at the HazInfo dissemination event we held in Jakarta. Patra Rina Dewi, director of the Tsunami Alert Community (Kogami), a nongovernmental organisation working on disaster mitigation training for communities, said the knowledge people most need is whether an earthquake has the potential to become a tsunami. The current standard for this is an earthquake that occurs less than ten kilometres below the seafloor and is recorded as more than seven on the Richter scale. “But this kind of information should be translated into easy information for the people,” said Patra.
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.
It is asked in one of Sri Lanka’s aphorisms whether the sword that is not ready for war is to be used for cutting kos (jack fruit)? That is the same question we have to ask the Ministry of Disaster Management about its warning towers. When oh when, will the Ministry realize that these towers are a colossal waste of money and put its weight behind DEWN and cell broadcasting? But in Sri Lanka’s southern coastal village of Godawaya, a tsunami warning tower failed to emit a siren. Local fishermen who had stayed home to take part waited for a few hours and decided to go to work.