Hazard Warning Initiatives: Media Event

Posted on January 25, 2006  /  10 Comments

LIRNEasia organised a press conference to highlight two major initiatives in the area of hazard warning, one that it launched on providing disaster mitigation and last-mile connectivity to tsunami-affected villages and the other that it wrapped up on dam-related hazard warning system for Sri Lanka.

LIRNEasia released A Concept Paper for a Dam-related Hazard Warning System in Sri Lanka: A Participatory Study on Actions Required to Avoid and Mitigate Dam Disasters in collaboration with its project partners, the Vanguard Foundation, Sri Lanka National Committee on Large Dams (SLNCOLD), Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) and Sarvodaya. This work was funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, Executive Director of LIRNEasia, handed over the final concept paper to U. W. L. Chandradasa, Director, Disaster Management Centre, Government of Sri Lanka. Excerpts from Kantale: 19 Years Later, a video documentary that was directed by Divakar Goswami and produced as part of the dam hazard project was screened on this occasion.

LIRNEasia and Sarvodaya formally launched a project to prepare tsunami-affected Sarvodaya villages to be disaster resilient. In the first instance, this project would evaluate disaster mitigation training and a number of ICTs for last-mile connectivity to 32 tsunami-affected villages in Sri Lanka. Based on the relative effectiveness of the ICTs, recommendations would be made on a wider-scale deployment of last-mile technologies and disaster preparedness training.

Rohan Samarajiva outlined the project objectives, methodology and introduced the project partners. Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Executive Director of Sarvodaya, described the last-mile hazard information project as part of Sarvodaya’s integrated response to disasters. He also announced the opening of the Samana Teta Disaster Management Institute in Moratuwa the day before, that would act as the coordinating hub for the project. Dr. Wil Baker, Senior Vice President from WorldSpace, described the features of the Disaster Warning Response and Recovery system based on addressable satellite radio technology that would be deployed with other ICTs in the coastal villages. Nalaka Gunawardena from TVE Asia Pacific and Gordon Gow from the London School of Economics, project partners, were also present to answer questions from the media.

The media coverage of the event will be tracked in the comments thread below.



    MEDIA Airing Schedule

    23, January 2006 12.00 p.m. ITN news

    23, Januray 2006 07.55 / 08.55 /09.55pm Lanka Business On line (LBO TV)
    25, January 2006 10.00 p.m. Money Report
    26, January 2006 07.00 / 09.00am Money Report (repeat) 28, January 2006 10.00 p.m. Lanka Business Report
    29, January 2006 11.00 a.m. / 07.30 p.m. Lanka Business Report (repeat)

    25, January 2006 or 01, February 2006 09.00 p.m.
    Lanka Viyaparika Puvath

    Following day (repeat) 11.00 a.m. Lanka Viyaparika Puvath (repeat)
    24, January 2006 06.55 / 07.55 / 08.55 p.m. TNL News

    ART TV
    24 or 25, January 2006 08.15 p.m. State of Business
    Following day (repeat) 07.15 a.m. State of Business (repeat)

    24, January 2006 07.00 p.m. News

    Shakthi TV
    24, January 2006 08.00 p.m. News

    24, January 2006 09.00 p.m. News

    23, January 2006 05.55 / 07.55 p.m. News In Brief

    SLBC (RNM)

    23, January 2006 07.00 p.m. News

  2. The first print coverage is at: LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE

    Additional print coverage on Daily News titled Disaster alarm system to be set up soon published on January 26, 2005

  3. More coverage at Lanka Business Online on Jan 29, 2006:

    Warning from the sky
    29 January 2006 14:21 hours

    Jan. 29 (LBR) – A Sri Lankan research organisation is deploying a satellite dependent early warning system to warn people about natural disasters like tsunamis and cyclones.

    Once operational, warnings will be passed directly to satellite enabled radios in villages that are likely to be affected.

    Although government is planning to get help from abroad to set up a tsunami warning system getting the message across to people living in risk areas will be difficult especially at night.

    Currently people have to depend on TV, FM Radio or the local police station for the warning.

    From loudspeakers in villages to sirens at tourist beaches; countries affected by the Indian Ocean Tsunami are trying various options to warn people of Tsunamis and Hurricanes.

    Getting the message across fast is critical to save lives.

    Since the Indian ocean, unlike the Pacific doesn’t have a Tsunami warning system deployed in the seas, the mines bureau depends on earthquake readings from Japan, Hawaii and from Peradeniya in Sri Lanka to figure out if there is a threat of a Tsunami.

    Media and local police are used to get the waning across to people at risk.

    Experts say the final link is the weakest in the current hazard warning system.

    Many people at risk could miss out on a warning because the police station is too far for the message to arrive on time or they were not tuned in to the media in the middle of the night.

    Meteorology department estimates it could take them upto an hour to issue a warning from the time of an earthquake.

    This leaves very little time to get the warning across to people.

    LIRNEasia, a research organization attached to the Moratuwa University and Sarvodaya an NGO, say it’s difficult for a government to take responsibility for the entire warning process.

    “Warning centers and detectors can be left to the government and inter-government organizations. Where organizations like Sarvodhaya can come in is the last mile, because they are closer to the people,” notes Rohan Samarajiva, Executive Director, LIRNEasia.

    The two organizations are promoting a satellite radio as an early warning device.

    At other times the US$ 100 radio will offer 40 satellite entertainment channels.

    The addressable satellite communication function, used to issue hazard warnings, kicks in if a disaster warning is issued by the local warning center.

    Warnings once received by World Space Incorporated, the company that operates the satellite network which covers more than 150 countries, can pinpoint its warnings.

    The geo stationary satellites use the common alert protocol which is like a language understood by equipment like computers and satellites used to issues disaster warnings.

    Warnings are issued in a language familiar to the radio user like Sinhala or Tamil.

    For instance, if there is a Tsunami threat to the Eastern and Southern provinces, the warnings to specific radios in the east will be received in Tamil and the ones in the south will be issued warnings in Sinhala.

    Radios can be located at town centers, temples or the house of a village headman to warn people living in the area.

    The system is faster because the nearest police station could be miles away in many cases and people don’t watch TV or listen to the radio in the nights.

    The addressable satellite radios are ideally suited for remote areas too.

    LIRNEasia and Sarvodaya are raising money to deploy 50 receivers which are not cheap at US$ 100 each.

    However, the expanded project, with government help, can cover the entire island.

    LIRNEasia and Sarvodaya are funded by the international development research center in Canada and the Vanguard Foundation a part of the company that manages ETV.

    -LBR Newsdesk: LBOEmail@vanguardlk.com

  4. More coverage at Lanka Business Online on Jan 23, 2006:
    Sound the Alarm
    23 January 2006 21:58 hours

    Jan. 23 (LBO) – Over a year after the 2004 December tsunami, residents of 32 affected coastal villages will test a satellite based disaster warning system, prior to coast wide implementation.

    The December disaster killed some 31,000 coastal residents and holiday makers in Sri Lanka.

    Studies in the aftermath of the horror pointed to the lack of a disaster warning system, which, if was in place at the time of disaster, would have triggered a warning, an estimated hour and half before the waves crashed into Sri Lanka’s southern coast.

    Of some 226 Sarvodaya villages that were affected by the tsunami, a select 32 will receive disaster mitigation training and disaster warning equipment through a project initiated by LIRNEasia, the regional ICT policy and regulation capacity building organization.

    The Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) funded project will test the effectiveness of disaster mitigation training and five different village level disaster warning technologies during simulated disaster drills.

    Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Executive Director of Sarvodaya said “This project seeks to prepare our villages from the ground-up to become disaster resilient. When the official warnings come, the villages will be ready to receive them and act on them promptly.”

    LIRNEasia officials said that a lack of a national warning system compounded by a non-existent local warning communication system and public training makes it unlikely that even today that hazard warnings will reach individual households.

    Officials said even as the government attempts to install an ocean based warning system, it should also focus attention to the last mile or the to date that

    LIRNEasia Executive Director Prof. Rohan Samarajiva said “The current project, driven by civil society organizations, has extraordinary potential for saving lives and restoring a sense of security to the affected people in Sri Lanka and hopefully around the Bay of Bengal.”

    The research design meanwhile, will evaluate the role played by a number of factors that contribute to the design of an effective last mile hazard information dissemination system.

    Some of the areas of evaluation will include the reliability and effectiveness of information and communication technologies as warning systems, the contribution of training and the economic standing of the village towards the effectiveness of a warning system.

    Prof. Samarajiva said, while the project aims to cover most of the coast, it was up to the government and its agencies including the newly formed National Disaster Management Centre to implement the last mile warning system and disaster mitigation training to other parts of the island that face serious risks.

    Tech Specs

    The 32 villages in the pilot project will be provided with different configurations of training and information and communication technologies.

    The ICT’s include the fixed and mobile phone, ham radio and Disaster Warning and Response Recovery (DWRR) units provided by US based technology provider WorldSpace.

    The DWRR unit is the most comprehensive of the technologies being tested.

    The warning system can be remotely activated and can issues warning to the entire island or specific locations as per the requirement.

    The units are also designed to work independent of utilities like electricity, and local telephone exchanges that could be destroyed during a disaster.

    -Shafraz Farook: shafraz@vanguardlk.com

  5. Coverage in Daily Mirror, Feb 7, 2006:

    Last mile connectivity for tsunami-hit villages

    By Jennifer Sheen
    Lirne Asia, in collaboration with Sarvodaya launched the first phase of a project to provide disaster mitigation training and ‘last mile’ connectivity to tsunami affected villages along the coast of Sri Lanka on Monday. Sri Lanka is the first location to field test satellite radio for specialized disaster warning, response and recovery.

    The tsunami in 2004 and the false earthquake warnings and evacuations of March 2005 highlighted the need not only for sophisticated earthquake and tsunami detection but also for effective communication of hazard information to the most vulnerable citizens living in areas where communication and disaster preparation training are almost non-existent.

    Sarvodaya provided immediate relief to tsunami survivors in December 2004, concentrating its efforts on 226 affected Sarvodaya Service villages on the Sri Lankan coast. The research project launched on Monday will assess the effectiveness of training and five different ICT technologies, in order to provide effective hazard warning systems for the Sarvodaya villages.

    Executive Director of Sarvodaya, Dr Vinya Ariyaratne said that “one of the biggest lessons we learned from the tsunami was how lacking Sri Lanka was in terms of emergency warning systems. This project seeks to prepare our villages from the ground up to become disaster resilient.”

    Villages will be provided with different configurations of training and information and communications technologies depending on their individual circumstances. The ICTs include VSATs, fixed and mobile telephones, ham radio and brand new DWRR units based on addressable satellite radio, provided by WorldSpace.

    “The villagers will be expected to participate in the project” explained Dr Ariyaratne. Representatives from the villages will be selected and trained to find the best solutions for communication of hazard awareness in their local areas.

    Launched in the US earlier this month, and field tested in Sri Lanka in 2005, the DWRR is the first device to incorporate the Common Alert Protocol (CAP) The radio set can be switched on remotely, and converted from a conventional radio to a specialized hazard alert system.

    GPS technology incorporated into the radio set, along with the unique code assigned to each receiver allows hazard information to be communicated to sets within a vulnerable area. Dr. Wilson Baker, Jr. Senior Vice President of WorldSpace Inc. explained that the unit is solar and battery powered, making it independent of infrastructure. In the event of a disaster the reception from the satellite will not be disturbed.

    The project is funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada and has as partners the Vanguard Foundation, Dr Gordon Gow, a disaster communication expert from LSE, UK, TVE, Asia Pacific, Sri Lanka and the Community Tsunami Early-Warning Centre at Peraliya.

    Dr Baker described the Sri Lankan project as an “important case study that will contribute to disaster mitigation worldwide.”

  6. The LK Government Information Department carried a report: http://www.news.lk/news_2006_01_265.htm

  7. I am Chairman SARITSA FOUNDATION. Saritsa Foundation equips, empowers and inspires people to protect and save from strikes of killer disaters by inputs of needed information,knowledgebuilding,education,training and motivation.saritsa Foundation imparts education and training at the Door Step of the people by its team of experts of the Mobile University.saritsa foundation has trained 114257people including 5786 disabled in 7 disaster prone states like Maharashtra,Gujarat,Rajasthan,Delhi,

    Haryana,Chhatisgarh,Pondicherry and Tamilnadu. I am looking forward for partnership for this vital aspect.Warning for disasters is one of very important dimension. Look forward for joining together.with Regards
    Colonel N M Verma

  8. Dr. Seneviratne, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka

    the only way to control disasters is to link it to national environment plan, which is yet to be formulated in Sri Lanka. Policies and Authorities cannot work without a proper legal backing for a national plan.

  9. The legislation exists as does a road map, albeit imperfect: http://www.lirneasia.net/2006/07/sri-lanka-disaster-act-a-disaster/

    We hope they will be made perfect.

    In the meantime, we will work on the last mile, a key component that everyone recognizes is an absolute necessity: http://www.lirneasia.net/2006/11/bridging-the-last-mile/