January 31, 2005 /
Adapting to an ICT based Emergency Warning System
by Priyantha K. Weerabahu ,
Daily News, 25 Jan 2005
This is a commendable contribution that avoids the red herring of the tsunami warning system and goes to the heart of the matter. We will make all efforts to incorporate Mr Weerabahu’s ideas into the draft report, even though we failed to locate him in time to invite him to the Expert Consultation on the 26th.
A few issues:
1. The TRC commissioned a consultancy study in 1999 on a single-number for emergencies. The Police did start up 119 service (for some reason deviating from both the 112 and 911 numbers that are used elsewhere) last year, but it would be useful if we could find out the TRC’s position on this matter.
2. Once everyone reaches agreement on a single number, I think Mr Weerabahu’s recommendations can be implemented. Of course, it is very difficult for normal Sri Lankans to obtain a LK domain URL, but I hope this will not be the case for an emergency domain.
3. It must be remembered that the 112/119/911 service will be just one source of information on hazards and we must not neglect others. This source may be vulnerable to congestion problems.
I live in The Netherlands and here every municipality needs to have its own contingency plan by law. In that are the risks stated and also described what the organisation to fight the disaster (before and after) looks like and who has which responsibilities, tasks and authorities.
Municipalities are obliged to analyse and make an inventory of the risks within their area and the consequences. The contingency plan must be based upon this. Based on the inventory the municipalities have to select for which possible disasters they have to make an emergency measures plan. It needs to be updated at least once in every four years or sooner if needed. The plan is scrutinized by the Province the municipality is a part of.
There is a public website and a manual for support and information (only in Dutch) http://www.minbzk.nl/wwwhandboekrampenbestrijdingnl . In the manual you can find information about the emergency measures system, the operational consequences of the legal and organisational implications, the management aspects that are necessary for the emergency measures, the system of quality control within the emergency measures and appendixes.
The appendixes consist of
– lists of abbreviations, definitions, explanations of jargon and source documents
– description of processes in emergency measures and activity schedules to support them
In the UK there is something similar http://www.ukresilience.info/contingencies/dwd/c2amanagement.htm and undoubtedly there must be more in the rest of the world.
Maybe you can make use of those parts that could be applicable for Sri Lanka.
Part of the problem in our country is that a few years hence, the lessons of the tsunami will be all but forgotten. We have a penchant for mobilisation in the short term and a complete lack of follow-up and sustainability over the long term. Our expertise lies in stop gap measures aimed at addressing immediate needs, rather than creating systems that stand the test of time.
This is inextricably linked with a zero-sum political culture, that bases all decisions on populist votes rather than in the national interest.
While the systems in your part of the world are commendable and have great value for us, I’m sceptical about how much they will continue to influence processes in Sri Lanka over the long term.
I am extremely happy to note the comments made by Mr. Rohan regarding the article I wrote on “Adapting to an ICT based Emergency Warning System”.
I sincerely hope the recommendations made by me will be incorporated in a future action plan as mentioned for the greater good of all.
Priyantha K. Weerabahu
I too read your article in Daily News with interest and found it both informative and eye opening. However, I am not sure how many ideas you present can be really implemented in this country. Well, please don’t think I discourage you (There are many who think I talk too negative when I point them the reality) but if you have the experience that I have, perhaps you too would start doing something more constructive than offering your good ideas free of charge to policy makers.
Now I hear there are so many attempts to implement Disaster Warning Systems. Just give six months and see, there will be no one speaking about Disaster Warning Systems. People will start asking why spend so much on disaster warning systems, when such a high percentage of our children face malnutrition. It’s a pity, but that’s how our country works!
I suggest compiling your ideas in a more constructive manner and taking them to other South Asian governments and international institutions rather than presenting it to our own policy makers. The policy makers of this country are interested in disasters only because they give these Brown Sahibs and opportunity to attend a conference in another country and do a little shopping. Nothing else.
I just hope that Vanguard foundation would use some of your good ideas. Frankly, I do not think anyone else will!
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