I am at the University of Washington in Seattle discussing grand challenges in tech policy. When asked to identify a grand challenge in the tech policy space that was uniquely relevant in my own country, I proposed action to minimize impact on livelihoods as described in the piece I wrote after the April Kelani river flood: As I read general alerts of the type quoted above, I wonder how a person could react. So for example, what do I do, as a resident of Kegalla District, when I am told there is a risk of landslides in the District? For specific action, I would need a specific warning, such as “there is a 75 percent probability of this particular hill looming over my house sliding down if there is more than one hour of continuous rain.” I would need to know where to go.
Many people I care for live in Nepal. Less than a month ago I was teaching in Nagarkot, in the hills about an hour out of Kathmandu. I recognize some of the buildings with cracks that come on the TV screen. I receive the tweets that say #prayforNepal. I wonder, who does one pray to?
A lecture on disaster risk reduction was organized on Thursday 19th June at the Sri Lanka Foundation to consolidate knowledge on the subject in Sri Lanka and share it with other countries, private sector organizations and the general public. The keynote speaker at the event was Dr Stuart Weinstein, Deputy Director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre USA who spoke of the sparse seismic networks and the inadequacies in the tsunami warning system a decade ago. He went on to illustrate the advancements in tsunami warning with the number of warning systems increasing from one to four. Furthermore, the speed at which tsunamis can be detected has improved significantly. (Presentation “Advances in Tsunami Warning Systems Since the Great Sumatra Earthquake of 2004“) Mr.
A short film made as part of Nuwan Waidyanatha’s action research project assessing the efficacy of voice and text in disaster communication has been shortlisted for an award. TVE Asia Pacific’s short film, Do You Hear Me, is one of 11 finalists in the first Asian Film Festival on Disaster Risk Reduction which will take place in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from 22 to 25 October 2012. The festival is part of the Fifth Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR), being held in the Southeast Asian city during that period. The film festival is being organized by the conference’s co-hosts, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNBP). Do You Hear Me looks at how voice be used more efficiently in both alerting and reporting about disasters, and where computer technology make a difference in crisis management.
Yesterday, I was talking with an Indian colleague who was involved in improving the Indian weather information system based on INSAT while working for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The trigger had been the devastating cyclone that hit Andhra Pradesh in 1977. This was also related to initiating my interest in disaster early warning because that cyclone was supposed to hit the East Coast of Sri Lanka, but veered away at the last minute. I remember tracking news of its journey while working at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. One year later the cyclone did not change track and we lost over 900 people on the East Coast.
An earthquake happened. Minor tsunamis occurred with no loss of life. The story was in the warnings and responses. My first (and obviously imperfect) reflections are in LBO. In the age of social media, people will learn of distant hazards independently of government.
I have been writing about the lessons that can and should be learned from the Japanese experience with the devastating local tsunami which in addition to its normal destruction, also triggered the failure of the nuclear stations. Those writings were intended for general Asian audiences, rather than any particular country. In the slideset here, I focus on one country, the one that I know best, my own.
Lots of people talk about predicting earthquakes. Here’s the science. Why should we be in interested in earthquake prediction? Because we live in a bad neighborhood: there has been a tsunamigenic earthquake every year, except 2008, since 2004 in the Sunda Trench. Until the prediction issue is resolved all we can do is focus on warning and preparedness.